THE BEGINNING

Dropping his iPhone was the best thing that ever happened to Reef Younis.

Ilustration by Carl Partridge

Ilustration by Carl Partridge

DROPPING HIS iPHONE WAS THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO REEF YOUNIS

“Our children will never know the link between the two.” A picture of one cassette and one pencil, destined to be separated forever, enshrined in a prison of singular purpose; eternally lost to the annals of history. The image might have made a nuisance of itself on your Facebook news feed; tumbled through your Tumblr or teased on your Twitter profile: just another momentary pictorial whimsy in a long, infinite wave of fleetingly funny distractions that make up our anti-social digital lives. You might have made the connection straight away, smiling with a fond reminiscence of trying to salvage a recently chewed ‘Now 32’ cassette with budget stationary, or scowled at the fact it took up a nanosecond more than you were comfortable with, driving you to click on the latest link vomited into your consciousness with particular relish.

Typically I’d be the latter, but this time I wasn’t, predominantly because I’d drunkenly dropped the bastardised techno pen knife I once called my iPhone a few days earlier and was having to consume (we don’t listen anymore) my music on a CD player. Days. It took days for the shock of not having everything-I’ve-ever-needed-to-make-my-life-a-socially-digitally-connected-mecca-of-convergent-consumption in the palm of my hand. Or back pocket. Or cracked and croaking on a sticky northern pub floor.

I was disconnected from everything, isolated by my own reliance. Instead of 100 numbers at my fingertips, I had none; instead of 10,000 tracks at my disposal, I had the luxury of 13. But then, I kinda liked it. I wasn’t disconnected; I was unplugged. I wasn’t bound; I was freed. For the first time in quite some time, I was taking the long road and for once, my soundtrack wasn’t endless.

Without the option to choose from a gargantuan library, I didn’t feel the urge to. I listened to an album from start to finish, in its entirety. I rolled my eyes at the obligatory album filler, closed my eyes to soak up the beauty; sighed and fist-pumped when the moment demanded. It was more than just a literal journey to work and a CD was more than just the physical representation of my hard drive.

And where music’s rabid digitisation gives us an endless selection, it also hatchets and disseminates, undermining an album’s craft; destroying its common thread. We reduce passages to fragmented snapshots, the investment of their stories to rag tag collections, always distracted, always interrupting.

So it might be too late for the cassette but for the Nth generation of every over-reliant Apple bite I take, the dust will continue to gather on a CD player that’s outlasted longer than it ever should have, ready to step into the breach regardless of drunken indiscretion or expensive technological failure. It’s a dated, cumbersome, ugly reminder that it wasn’t always like this. And that is something worth being reminded about.

By Reef Younis

Originally published in issue 33 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. November 2011.

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