Monday, November 21, 2016

memories with Crow

We all have worries, some common to everyone and others simply things that seem vaguely wrong about the way things are in our modern world. One subject Crow and I have talked about at length while sitting by his fireplace sipping Remy these cold and wet evenings of late autumn is the problem of storing what people have learned and made. Music, for one example in my lifetime, has been available in a number of formats over the years. I'm a bit too young (not by much) to remember wax discs but I do remember 78s, the flat discs made of a brittle material that broke all too easily. After them came 45s and albums made of longer lasting plastic. You needed a phonograph to play discs. Next came tapes which required the listener to have a special player. The next big innovation was the the cd, another disc but this one could only be interpreted by a laser disc machine. Now most of us have mp3 files that we access on our electronic devices - no discs, no tapes, no cds, in fact, theres nothing really to see or hold at all. It's pretty much the same for printed matter of all kinds. Now I know this isn't true for all of us, since books are still pretty common as are dvds, but it's largely true overall.

One can't help but wonder what next and, moreover, what if something happened that made all of our electronic information as inaccessible? A major solar flare, which apparently aren't all that uncommon, could destroy much of what's stored in the cloud. Besides music, movies and personal pictures almost all scientific documents are are written and saved on computers. Makes one think, doesn't it? Then, of course, there's just the general course of progress I already described where formats and the means of accessing them disappear.

I was very happy to discover that it hasn't just been Crow and I who have noticed these things. Not long ago on one of my voyages of discovery around the internet I found a website called 'The Memory of Mankind', a group that has dedicated itself to preserving much of our culture using a modern version of the clay tablet. The idea is that information deemed significant is being printed on ceramic microfilm and is being stored in an ancient saltmine in Austria. It's pretty interesting and most definitely a worthwhile project.


Once a king asked his wise men to give him something that would make him happy when he is sad, and sad when he is happy. The wise men spent days thinking about it in silence and watching the clouds go by. On the fourth day, they wrote on a piece of paper and handed it to the king. When the king read it, he thanked them. What did it say?

    “This, too, shall pass.”



  1. Hi Susan,
    Your wonderful picture of Crow makes me ponder is he posing in front of hieroglyphic depictions of ancient Egyptian musicians, referencing the first written notes and scales of what underpins music to-day ? In the presence of the ancient Music God or a reincarnation ?

    Nothing still beats a live show as Crow will attest, but second in my view in quality are vinyl recordings, then I think we lost out with the CD’s only to markedly deteriorate with MP 3’s. Also the gatekeepers of quality of the 70’s are disappearing (Record companies etc.) who, for all there faults, helped ensure we weren’t subject to the en masse barrage of today. Social media means the apprenticeship approach to learning the basics is at risk of giving us more and more of forgettable music.

    When I was in Kiribati I listened to their oral history in music spanning thousands of years of history depicting their first migratory journey from Tahiti. Their concert took over 2 hours and has been passed down to successive generations as it had a purpose and whose exquisite melodic harmonies endured. Call me a snob but I don’t think there will too much of a problem in the storage of music for the future because so much of it I think is becoming forgettable.

    Best wishes

    1. Hi Lindsay,
      That's a very interesting take on the picture of Crow, one that makes a lot of sense. In actuality, it's one from a couple of years ago when Crow visited the Temple of Horus at Edfu, Egypt to consult with his old uncle.

      We agree with you completely that the best music by far is found in live performance but being able to listen to music at home is also nice. You're right, of course, that the quality of recorded music has fallen a lot in recent years what with anyone and everyone being able to showcase themselves. Whereas we are free to ignore what offends us (and much does) the problem that recurs is the signal to noise issue. It becomes harder to find worthy material.

      One thing we've also noticed over the years is the disappearance of music that was once available on earlier formats - like the vinyl recordings you mentioned. We owned a number of albums of music recorded performances similar to the one you described having heard in Kiribati, one of note was the water playing songs of a pygmy tribe, that never got transferred to cd.

      Overall, I was glad to see that an effort is being made by the MOM group to save representations of some of the best of our cultural artifacts that can be transcribed to their new clay tablets. How they're planning to save any recorded music is a mystery to me but at least they have a lot of written stuff to transcribe.
      All the best, as always.

  2. there is no history of todays life. its too vast , too different , too separate as we have so much to choose from there is no common thread to unite people.
    I think I live in a horrible world and can only hide in my own limited world which hangs by a thread and other people will scoff at or disbelieve altogether.

    1. As far as anyone being able to record all of our history you're quite correct that that's impossible, Claire. I think these people are just trying to put together whatever they can to provide some sort of time capsule of what might be decent information about our culture against the day that we've either all disappeared or have lost our technology. In some ways the latter wouldn't be such a bad thing, would it?

  3. One of the problems of having a surfeit of anything is that the individual item becomes less valuable. For example, when one has a starter garden containing just one or two shrubs and a few plants, the loss of one is keenly felt. Not so if we have a large garden full, unless there was a particular reason for having a particular plant. I think this is one of the reasons I felt so deeply (your picture triggered this) about the wanton destruction of Nimrud in the Middle East by those "enlightened thugs" aka ISIS.

    In so many areas we have too much, and most of it is only "noise" to fill the silence.

    1. That's true, Tom. We treasure that which is rare and beautiful. I know what you mean about the pain of knowing these remnants of human history are being destroyed through ignorance and hatred. I felt the same way previously (and bet you did too) when the Bamiyan Buddhas were blown up by the Taliban, when the American forces stood guarding the oil ministry in Baghdad while the museum was looted, when Palmyra was destroyed.

  4. Well, one of the issues could be the Remy, vintage and all. But nevermind that.

    I remember my Sis's 'HiFi', a large cabinet, apparently two speakers at the front sides, the record player in the middle. I know it did 45 and 33, unsure of 78. thing was at least 4-5 feet wide. I don't think it even had a radio. This was around '62 or so.

    If I had more ambition, I'd go get a good record player, speakers, etc and give it all a try again, 'cept I don't have the records anymore. Guess I could get them, but....

    Reading the comments above does not reassure me. Is music only define, reduced to the the media that we use? Is there a difference between a MP3 player, the thumbdrive we have in our pocket, the 45 in it's envelope? Really?
    I was once lucky enough to see Los Lobos in a small, less than 100 peoplel, venue. I also watched as my oldest, then 5th grade, stood on the table in the same small place, Cotati Caberet, and yelled the words to 'If I had a rocket launcher' to Bruce Cockburn, 50 feet away. And saw John Hiatt, with Ry Cooder on lead guitar, less than a hundred people.
    That was music. It was an experience, unique. Nothing in a LP, CD, DVD, thumb drive can duplicate those evenings. Ry Cooder, in a Hawaiian shirt, grinning at me as I danced with my 10 year old daughter, 20 feet from him.

    Got off topic here, sorry.


    1. Hi Mike,
      I certainly remember hifis like the one your sister had as well as the first time we heard stereo sound at home. Part of a sample album had the sounds of people walking around in a large room. oooh!
      Oh dear.. The 78s broke or got thrown out as I remember. My 45s were given away to a neighbor who bought an antique juke box. Our large collection of albums were left stored in RI and eventually sold to a dealer. An equally large collection of cds were donated to an Oregon music shop (after a two year project of copying them all to mp3 files). Nowadays all that music and more, about 18k pieces, lives on our ipods and computers. Such changes, eh?

      Yes, we too have seen and participated in many live performances. I'd love to have seen your daughter dancing. We saw Ry Cooder at the Newport Folk Festival one summer.. among others. You're right that nothing beats being there.

      I see my friend Lindsay has left us a detailed description of the formats we've experienced over the years. It's well worth reading.

  5. Hi Susan & Mike,
    I might add the difference are due principally to the distinction between analog and digitization. As you may know digitization involves the conversion of an analog source (analogue audio waves) into a numerical format for computers or similar numeric devices. Quick transitions sounds,(drum beat or trumpet) leads to distortions. Furthermore all the sound is converted in a process of approximate snapshots so the end recordings are inferior to vinyl. Differences in digitized versions (CD versus MP 3) are more subtle to relate more to the full audio range found in classical music.
    Since digitization there has been a marked resurgence in demand and production of vinyl music.
    Best wishes

    1. Thanks, Lindsay, that's a great breakdown of the types of recordings we've had over the years. Had we stayed in one place it's likely we would have kept the vinyl albums we had and the fancy turntables but the fact we moved distances of several thousand miles several times meant us shedding a lot of collected weight. The albums went and then so did the cds in their turn. Now we feel our hearing is no longer so acute that we can tell much difference - much like the idea of watching super HD television with our attenuating vision.
      All the best

  6. I am surely one of the weirdest beings on the planet since i happen to enjoy silence most of all. I am quite fortunate to live in the middle of nowhere, relatively, thus get my way. Once in awhile a beat will get me, words rarely do but acoustic strings will grab me too. And i like the classics of old and of course, the beatles. I do recall the 78- i don't recall why they broke so often. I recall my old uncle's crank phonograph that was just weird to me as a child. He adored it.

    Oh well, in general a rather sort of bleakness settling in around my area... dark, cold rainy, windy with occasional blinding when the sun breaks thru all that wet overhang outside my windows and sends a million shards of light into the room. Now that's worth noticing. Xox

  7. Not so strange, my friend. Although we do have a huge collection of music and a very nice little system to play it we rarely do. The most we listen is when we drive around town with the ipod hooked up to our car radio speakers - and then it's almost always on shuffle so we never know what's coming next.

    78s broke because the shellac they were made from was very brittle.

    I always loved the cracked skies of northwest winters.

  8. A lovely drawing, as usual. I don't visit many blogs these days but every few months or so I always find good things continuing here.

    1. It's always a treat to see you've been by, Andrew. Glad there's occasionally something to interest you.