Bodies in a Digital World

My latest in the Christian Courier, also found here.


Who would have predicted that the vinyl LP would make such a comeback? But here we are. In 2018 you can get the latest musical release in 12-inch vinyl format, whether Ed Sheeran’s Divide or Kari Jobe’s The Garden. In our digital world, where a thousand songs can be stored on your phone, the cumbersome and bulky LP (long play) record is available again.

There are, of course, important differences between these two musical mediums. When we listen to music on an iPhone or MP3 player, the music has been stored in digital format – parts of the original musical sound waves have been captured or sampled and then converted to a series of numbers for software to interpret. On the other hand, when we listen to a vinyl record, the music has been recorded and stored in analog format. This means that the recording is shaped by the full sound waves originally produced by voices and instruments.

I would be out of my depths if I tried to say much more about analog and digital recording. I’m not even sure I can tell the difference when it comes to the quality of sound – and as you can imagine there’s an animated debate on that question in the world of musical connoisseurs! And to this whole conversation we must add the complicating factor that many of today’s vinyl albums are based on digital recordings – that is, many newer LPs don’t offer a fully analog listening experience. Continue reading


vintage Jesus (2)

Last week as we began this short sermon series entitled Vintage Jesus, we spent a bit of time describing this whole fascination with the sensibilities and aesthetics of past decades. There is fairly wide interest in the clothes and jewelry and furniture, and other things from the 1930’s and 40’s up through the 70’s. There are shops and websites dedicated to selling vintage things – blogs dedicated to the discussion of all things vintage.

This week we’re going a slightly different way to introduce the vintage theme – in a moment we’ll do so by listening to some Johnny Cash. Most of us know how much dramatically the music industry has changed over the past number of years. It used to be the case that you bought your music in a very concrete form – you bought a record or a cassette-tape or a compact disc – and you would play that very concrete thing in a stereo of some kind. But today music is purchased and listened to in such a different way. You never “see” the music. You download it to your computer or directly to your phone – often wirelessly. For the vast majority of people in North America today, to listen to music you simply pull out your phone or your Ipod, put in your earplugs, and listen. We could easily play some Johnny Cash this way.

Given these technological advances, it may be surprising to us that the interest in vintage things includes an interest in the vinyl records. Over the past 20 years most people threw out their old vinyl records, or tried to get rid of them at garage sales. But there is an increasing number of people who collect old vinyl records – people out there looking for records, and buying up old record players like this Eaton’s model – it actually belongs to Iain MacLeod.  Continue reading