Volume 95, Issue 32

Tuesday, October 30, 2001
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K-PAX is original escapism

Aged like fine wine: CHRW celebrates 20 years

13 Ghosts perfect choice for a scary Devil's Night

Verve Pipe show Lit some emotion

Digital music is evil

Digital music is evil

OK, not really, but kind of

Chiu on this
Andrea Chiu
A&E Editor

Last week, I finally got my grubby little hands on Andy Stochansky's Radio Fusebox, an album not only high in sonic quality, but high on visual stimulation as well.

I held the award-winning packaging in my hands and smiled like a giddy six-year-old in a candy store.

Why did this album's artwork make me so happy? Perhaps because cardboard cases are the best. Sure, they might have a dent here and there, but they don't break as easily as their plastic counterparts.

But it's not really the cardboard packaging that makes me smile. The artwork on Radio Fusebox reminds me of why music – the entire culture of music – is so great and can never be taken over by the impersonal digital world.

MP3s are a wonderful way to learn about new artists and their music.

Hell, they're "free" and I know what it's like to be a poor student. It's tough to save money for the new Dave Matthew Band's album instead of buying a pitcher of beer, when you can simply download the entire album on Morpheus or Audiogalaxy.

But MP3s and burned CDs lack the cultural significance of what music – the entire package – is all about. Digital downloads not only threaten the economy of the music industry, but the entire culture upon which the industry is built.

No, Dave Matthews and his record company probably don't need the money and perhaps Mr. Matthews supports MP3 trading. One could even argue it should all be about the music, not about those superficial things like the CD sleeve designs.

I'm not necessarily disagreeing with that, but what I am stressing is the importance of the traditional album in its complete form: the real CD with the real artwork.

Album art is just a small part in the overall musical experience. Going to the record store and skimming though the new and used CDs and records is as much a part of my musical experience as listening to my favourite album.

Listening to my favourite albums while holding the album's art is so much more meaningful than hearing one or two songs on Winamp. It's the feel of it, the look of it and, sometimes (as eerie as it sounds), the smell of it. The artwork ties the album together as a whole and creates the listening experience the artists intends us to feel.

So next time you're sitting at home, downloading the latest Dave Matthews single – think twice. The quick and easy path does not always lead to the greatest reward.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001