Vinyl Pops on the Ipod

It’s a mellow ending to a great day. Celebrate Recovery had 73 people, and now the church is empty. Stan Getz is swinging on my Ipod via Pandora Internet Radio. The hiss of the vinyl is as clear as the breathy slur of his low notes through the tenor sax. The Lord is in his holy temple, and his servant is groovin’ at the Mac.

It’s the irony of it all I find most entertaining. My 21st Century notebook has the same qwerty keyboard arrangement as typewriters from the 1800s, when the clumsy pattern was designed to slow down typing on the sluggish mechanical machines. Music recorded direct to disk in the 1940s and 1950s sounds as scratchy on that little ipod speaker as it ever did on a dusty record.

Children, music used to be stored not on websites, nor on laser discs, but as a squiggly groove running around a vinyl platter. The platter would spin with a needle riding in that groove, and the music played. As amazing as it was that a plastic impression could be turned into sound through a needle and an amp, it was even more amazing to skip the amp and listen to the music through a straight pin in a paper cup.

A few nights ago, I was playing with a 30-something-to-40-ish musician in a combo. When someone suggested that the song reminded them of Bob Dylan, my friend said, “Bob Dylan? Who’s that?” I think/hope it was a joke, meant to imply the speaker was too young to remember such an ancient celebrity. I assure you, Bob Dylan is alive and well, and still bragging about his fondness for Woody Guthrie. He’s older than me, but I’m not ashamed to say he was top 40 when I was mid-teens.

There is no shame in understanding ancient things. I play saxophones that are older than I am, on hymns written long before the sax was invented. And when the power goes out, my bass fiddle can still rock the house.

There is also no shame in understanding new things. A ranting Eminem reminds me more than anything of a bebopping Charlie Parker. Those who forget the past are cursed to repeat it, but those who understand the past have the same option, and it can also be a blessing.

Jesus said that the man who understands the gospel is like a homeowner who pulls from his storehouse treasures both old and new. He said no one puts new wine in old bottles or sews a new patch on old cloth. In the first case, the new wine is wasted; in the other, the old garment is ruined. The parable is not about merely encouraging the new, but about preserving the old as well.

I never heard of Don Byas. His music is new to me, but the song I’m enjoying was recorded in 1952. Now it’s Dizzy Gillespie — I remember him. He broke through on trumpet in the 1940s and was still performing in the 1990s. Miles Davis replaced Gillespie in Charlie Parker’s band, but Davis was still considered a contemporary artist 40 years after Parker’s death.

There really is nothing new under the sun. It’s been a long day, and what a thrill to enjoy old music on a new techno gadget. Eminem’s rap is stored by the Library of Congress on vinyl 78’s, because unlike magnetic and digital medium, those records can survive a serious nuclear blast and still be heard using a sharp stick and a gourd.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Your loss. Just remember, treasures old and new are equally treasures. Time to log off and drive the pickup home. In times like these, I wish I had a horse to feed when I get there. You see, we possess more than the scope of subjects we master, acres of land or square feet of floor space. We also possess years of experience, whether studied or lived directly, and the treasures of years gone by are more valuable than ever, like vinyl pops on an Ipod.

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