Thursday, December 08, 2005

Blast from the Past

I've bought an 8-track player.

As retro as that sounds, it has a singular purpose. Twenty five years ago when I was in junior high school I was introduced to several pieces of music in music clas that became some of my favorites. One was "Romantic Warrior" by Chick Corea and Return to Forever. The other was Gustav Holst's "The Planets". I went to the Irwin Public Library and made a copy of that record onto an 8-track, the technology we had at the time.

Eventually, the player was replaced and I went back to the library to borrow the record again. Except someone had stolen the record. The library had gotten a replacement but it wasn't the same. There were differences that I just didn't like and I began searching for the versiopn that I had first heard.

Unfortunately, I hadn't written down who the conductor was or what orchestra he was conducting. Early on, my search was based on the album cover but since just about every printing of the album had a picture of Saturn on the cover, it wasn't very helpful. Reissues and Cds added to the difficulty. To find what I considered the difinitive performance of "The Planets", I had to listen to it. There are a few key points in "Jupiter" and "Mars" that stand out, subtle pauses and tempos that my brain has kept on file for reference. But how do you explain this to someone else so that they can help in your search?

Thus, I have finally found an 8-track player. I will copy my tape onto a casette to convert it to MP3 so that I can post it to the web or send it in an e-mail so that others can listen and perhaps recognise this particular version from 1980 or before. Once I get my brother-in-law to do the conversion (or give me the software) my first thing will be to send an e-mail to WQED-FM.

The risk is that the tape is 25 years old. It may break. It may not play at all. It hasn't been used in all that time so it hasn't gotten worn out but if it does fail then I fear that my quest will finally fail.

Wy wife thinks I am imagining things. That what I remember about the music has been tainted and changed by time and that the version that has been playing in my head for a quarter century doesn't actually exist. I, of course, do not agree. When I listen to a version I replay my memory alongside. Sometimes I cannot tell the difference between the two but then I reach that key point and the pause is too short or too long and it leaps out at me. Of course, one I get the copy I will know for sure. Then again, my wife will probably say I'm deluding myself.

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