Art Kavanagh

Criticism, fiction and other writing

Bringing back the CD

But not the “jewel” case

I’ve just got home having spent a week in France visiting my youngest sister and her family. The last time I was there was 2½ years ago, when I spent an afternoon sorting through the books I’d left behind in 2011, to see which ones I wanted to keep. At that time, I told my sister that she was welcome to throw out the rest, or dispose of them however she saw fit. She didn’t in fact get rid of any of them in the meantime, but eventually moved them out of the attic to the terrace, where they were slightly more vulnerable to damp. So, this time, I spent rather more than an afternoon sorting through them again, and salvaging four small boxes worth: partly because of Talk about books, my priorities have changed, and there were many books which I had happily abandoned in 2020 that I now thought I’d like to keep after all. I’m going to write about them, probably next weekend. First, though, I want to write about something else I thought I might have left behind for good: my CD collection.

Along with the books and some other odds and ends, when I left France in 2011 to return to Ireland, there were two substantial boxes of CDs. I had long since ripped all except a handful of them to an iTunes library stored on an external hard drive so I didn’t have many qualms about leaving the CDs behind. As well as the iTunes library, I had a succession of iPods, Walkmans and phones. Back in Ireland, I continued to buy physical CDs and download albums more or less indiscriminately. Most of the time, I didn’t have a CD player, so I invariably ripped the CDs and listened to the music on a variety of devices. Around 2017, after I’d bought the 4-CD set, Brad Mehldau, 10 Years Solo Live, I decided to rationalize my practice and buy only downloads from then on.

That habit lasted until 2020, when I wanted to buy Chick Corea’s Vigilette album, Tempus Fugit, which wasn’t available as a download. Gradually I started to buy CDs again. I even bought a CD player and began to listen to the CDs directly, rather than to the copies on my external hard drive or iPod Touch.

I should stress that as far as I’m concerned this isn’t a question of sound quality. I’m a music lover, not an audiophile, and I’m not able to distinguish aurally between the iTunes AAC or MP3 copies and the CD originals. I prefer to listen to the CD because I like the physical reminder that I have a particular album in my collection. In the case of a box set, like the Mehldau solo live album, I like having to change the disc rather than let the almost 5 hours of music play though continuously, as they do on iTunes/Apple Music. And, of course, I like having the liner notes in printed format.

So naturally I thought that while I was bringing home several boxes of books, I might as well see if I could fit in most of the CDs too. It was clear that this would be a less daunting prospect if I didn’t have to transport the “jewel” cases as well. About half of the CDs are in digipak or similar card packaging. I left those as they are. For the others, I kept the disc, liner notes and any other inserts and dumped the boxes themselves. I did this even in the case of the many CamJazz CDs in the collection (Enrico Pieranunzi, John Taylor, Martial Solal and others), though CamJazz use an unusually robust and appealing type of box. Getting rid of the boxes reduced the weight and bulk of the discs substantially. What used to take up two large boxes now occupies one small one. Of course this will destroy any resale value of the discs, but I’d be surprised if they had any to begin with.

I’m going to try to find some of the card CD sleeves that used to be common, and glue the liner notes to them. I often thought about doing this years ago, so that the CDs would take up much less space, but I suppose I didn’t have the incentive to do so until I faced the prospect of paying to have them moved from one country to another. I’m looking forward to playing them again after a gap of almost 12 years.

Posted by Art, 08-Apr-2023.