Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Blast from the Past

We have dozens of cassette tapes at home. My husband created many compilations of our favorite music to listen to on car trips, and they are like snapshots in time. There is the tape that has the theme music from the Ghostbusters, which at one time was my son's favorite movie. There is the tape that contains children's favorites, Old McDonald Had a Farm, etc., put together when our children were tiny. And then there are the tapes that contain show music and folk music and anything else that would help to keep us awake while driving long distances. One of my all-time favorites is of tenor Kenneth McKellar singing the songs of Robert Burns, of which I never tire. Of our two cars, only one has a cassette player; in the other car, we play commercial CDs which don't have many memories associated with them. They do, however, have much better sound quality than the cassettes my husband recorded so many years ago. We also enjoy listening to books on tape from the public library while driving. This is something we couldn't do when travelling with small children, but it works well for us now. We have listened to the Autobiography of General Ulysses S. Grant, especially compelling because we were visiting Civil War sites at the time we were listening to the book; Jack Kerouac's On the Road, which was a good choice for our somewhat more conventional road trip; and, most recently, Cormac McCarthy's moving All the Beautiful Horses, which we hated to have come to an end.

Our history with cassettes is why I was sad to read an article from The New York Times describing the "demise of cassettes," which have been "eclipsed by the compact disc." The article does point out that the compact disc will probably be killed off by the availability of music over the Internet, "but that is a different story," as the author concludes. Brian Downing of Recorded Books predicts that the cassette tape "would be pretty much gone in three years," although his company will continue to publish in other formats. I can't say I'm surprised. Our students increasingly request recorded study aids in CD rather than in cassette format, and we no longer buy many cassettes unless that is the only format in which the material is offered.

1 comment:

Meg said...

We've already been culturing mourning the demise of the mix tape for a few years - check out the book of that title!

I remember so many times in high school getting yelled at before a trip to pack, damnit, instead of focusing all my energy on making tapes of all the music I just couldn't live without each time. It's convenient, but a little less exciting to just throw my iPod and thus my entire collection in my carry-on now.

A couple years ago, I got rid of the cassette deck for my stereo, even though I still have a few mix tapes from the 90s lying around. Some day, I'll have to find a way to get them digitized. The funny thing is--in keeping with the trend--even though it's no longer connected to my stereo and I only have a handful of albums that are closely connected with indelible childhood memories, I haven't gotten rid of my turntable.

Great post, Marie!