Saturday, January 03, 2009

My Sonic Roadmap

So I've had this little side-project going in fits and starts since last September to digitize all of our recorded music. I'm not sure of the precise rationale for doing this other than it seems like a good thing to rip all of our unused, unloved cassettes and vinyl to something a little more convenient for these modern times. Dee and the kids are iPod afficionados and it seemed reasonable that they would appreciate having all our great old music in a more iTunes-friendly format.

So for the past 4 months I've had the guts of our stereo plugged into the back of our PC as I've beavered away at this tedious task. I decided to tackle the cassette tapes first. Many of these tapes are close to 30 years old(!!). One - The Mamas and the Papas - is closer to 40 years and belonged to my parents when cassettes were on the cutting edge of audio tech.

It's been an unexpectedly poignant experience - memories that have not seen much daylight in so long. I've seen some childhood, my first car (a very used Firebird Esprit), an old friend's cigarette-burned couch, a spontaneous dance in front of the Western Fair bandshell, my embarrassing early-80's proto-punk harcut, a make-out session with my soon-to-be (much) Better Half - all pieces of Me brought into musical form and shape.

It's been a good time.

As I type these words, the final tape - tape #110 - is unwinding it's dusty secrets into the digital world. The tape: Steve Martin - A Wild and Crazy Guy. I haven't listened to it in many, many years, but I nearly wore it out when it was new. It was a gift expressly from my Dad on my 16th birthday. On occasions that demanded gifts, the selection duties were always left to Mom. But 16 was something different in my Dad's eyes, and he knew I loved Steve Martin. The fact that the tape had a bit of bad language was an added bonus. It was Dad's way of saying, "You've arrived, Son. You can be your own man, now.". It was good day, back in our house on Calgary Street.

All that from a little plastic ribbon. And upstairs, on a long shelf, are many more old LPs waiting to tell their stories, too. I can already hear their dusty voices.


David said...

I envy your courage. I have yet to attempt to ripping my albums (most of my tapes have long since gone away). On the other hand, getting that monkey off my back would be nice.

How are you connecting your PC to your stereo?

Crazylegs said...

Well.... I've connected the receiver's headphone jack to the Line-In on the PC's sound card. This requires a plug adaptor since the stereo uses a 'normal' (i.e. large) headphone jack while the PC uses a mini-plug. These can be found in Best Buy, etc. Alternatively, you could connect the stereo speaker jacks, instead - but this would require a Y-adaptor from the speakers' RCA jacks to the PC mini-plug.

Software-wise, I'm using a great open-source app called Audacity to capture the recording, convert it to WAV (or MP3) format, and chop it up into individual songs. You can download it from:

The next step - which is optional - is to run the recorded music through some software that removes 'ticks and pops' endemic to vinyl. I have not yet gone this route, myself.

Once I have all of these songs on the PC, I'll likely suck them into iTunes. Beyond that, I'm thinking about either purchasing an iPod-driven stereo component or else some kind of media jukebox containing all this digitized music. In reality, I'm more like a dog chasing cars - never sure what to do when/if I ever catch a car.

David said...

Thanks CL, that is the plug/software solution I use and I wanted to know if that was the way to go. Of course, being not clever, I hadn't thought of recording the entire album and then chopping it into tracks. I make life too hard.

I just spent the last hour chasing a truck, and boy, am I exhausted. Canine humour courtesy of Rowlf.

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