Groove Column: on the tyranny of convenience

When I first starting taking just CDs to gigs, fed-up of schlepping 23 kilos and the back spasms that resulted, I would sometimes get abuse from the odd vinyl die-hard. Then last year someone looked at the dishevelled wallet I pulled out of my bag at a gig and remarked ‘you play CDs? Old school!’ I laughed at the time but a couple of weeks ago I couldn’t find CDRs in the shop I usually buy them. Time marches on. In less than two weeks I turn 40. I am about to become old-school.

Two or three times every year I decide to bow to progress and get Traktor, but the thought of scrabbling behind a mixer for fifteen minutes while someone else is playing gives me pause. It feels, well, rude I guess. (Remember I’m English. You could run me down whilst drunk-driving a stolen car and my last breath would be an apology for bleeding all over you.)

We live in a world where convenience is king but what appears easy at first often bites us on the arse later. MP3s take up less space but sound awful. Online record shopping is misery if you don’t already know what you want. Carrying months of music wherever I go harms my DJing rather than improving it – too many choices to parse, too many tracks to locate. The act of pre-selection, of narrowing-down required by only being able to fit eighty records in a bag created coherence and identity; you couldn’t bring just anything in case.

The tyranny of technological convenience is often an excuse for dubious ethical behaviour. Because you can’t get what you want right now at the price you choose (the cheek of these content creators!) it’s OK to steal. At a tech conference in Austin last week homeless people were made into mobile Wifi hotspots, with the claim that it was raising ‘awareness’ when it was actually treating them as means rather than ends.

The older I get the more I like things which buck the trend: synthesisers that you program with patch-cords. Cast-iron pots that take ages to cook. Ribbon mics which require a heavy-duty pre-amp before they can pick up any sound. Life is not convenient, love is not convenient. Nor friends nor kids nor work. All the most important things require care and effort and trouble. Maybe I should start carrying records around again. Can anyone recommend an osteopath?

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