Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In 4,000 Years What Will Archaeologists Think of My LPs?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In 4,000 Years What Will Archaeologists Think of My LPs?

Article excerpt

I found the "papyrus" in our attic by looking for the ice melter in our garage. It wasn't a perfect storm, but the sidewalk needed the crystals that must have been stored out of sight. I moved the canvas used to bundle fallen leaves. What was that clattering down from a dusty shelf?

It was a cassette tape of "Ben and Sweets," saxophonist Ben Webster and trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison, dated 1987. Soon other cassettes cascaded from the old zippered case left over from some bygone car cleaning.

"Ben and Sweets" was from an album recorded long before, in 1962. Playing the tape again was like hitting rewind in my memory. Remember the theory that memory is like a recording? Everything is there, you just have to find the play button.

Please tell me I'm not alone as a "recordings accumulator" from ancient days. Others must also have been triggered to realize that slippery sliding cassettes are all over the house, that shelves of vinyl LPs from Bach to Brubeck can be found upstairs and down, and that breakable 78s sing silently in the attic.

Future archaeologists will have a lot of musical papyrus to unearth.

People are well paid and/or obsessively motivated to translate the secrets of Egyptian papyrus into language that's understandable 4,500 years later. Who will comprehend "Ben and Sweets" 4,500 years from now? Or even 20 years from now? Already, commenting on a CD version, "The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD" says, "The remastering will sound a bit lifeless to those who've heard the original vinyl."

While we're plunging beyond CDs to DVDs and iPods, I think of the friend who asked if we still had a reel-to-reel tape recorder. I found our old "portable" in the basement, and it weighed a ton. She brought over an old family tape. It barely muttered on our machine, though she heard enough to have it professionally copied onto a CD. …

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