Thursday, 17 January 2013

His Master's Voice

"All I have is memories, and reminders of mortality."

The apparent demise of the high street record store HMV has triggered a whirlpool of personal emotions, not dissimilar, I imagine, to those experienced by Nipper the dog, the company's iconic trademark appropriated from an original painting by artist Francis Barraud.

Barraud's vision depicts a Jack Russell listening intently to 'his master's voice' played on a phonograph. With added poignancy, some suggest both sit atop a coffin, Nipper a demonstrable picture of loyalty and melancholy.

Although I could never show quite such sentiment towards what was, after all, another profit making corporation, its passing does, nonetheless, compel me to contemplate the passing of my own misspent youth and a period in time to which I feel I very much belonged.

If it's not that HMV going into administration makes me feel old, then, at least, it makes me feel no longer young, confused by the implications of a new era of music consumption seeming to threaten that which I most loved about the popular music world in the first place.

For all the sins of Virgin, Our Price and others, HMV was the last, ubiquitous bastion of music on the high street, the final totem of a time not solely about the music alone but about the experience of falling in love with bands and what they represent. We still have independent record stores, of course, but perhaps never again will the wider public appreciate that special environment in which to immerse oneself in something 'other'.

At the same time, I realise I may need to simply accept that fact. I find myself raging against a drift into lazy nostalgia, of thinking yester-year was unanimously better than now, disproved by nothing more than the fact that, despite all I've said, I actually can't even remember the last time I purchased a record from HMV!

I was going to write a fuller treatise on the theme until I came across the piece from which the opening quote of this blog is taken. Written by Guardian columnist Stuart Jeffries, it says all I want to say, including how, of all the high street names lost in this recession, the departure of HMV from our national conscience strikes harder to our hearts due to the emotive pull of music in all our lives.

Omnipresent access to music online is a wonderful thing and perhaps someone soon will fully utilise all the new opportunities for artistic expression it may afford the modern music artist. Yet, I see no signs of it to date and in the mean time such a wealth of music at my fingertips feels as much an inhibitor as an enabler.

Could it be I prefer less choice? Or is it that I've never loved 'music' just for the music itself but for something much, much more? Something the faceless, commitment free download of bytes of data can't help but undermine?

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