August 3rd, 2007
A few years back, I lost my record/CD collection (it’s a long and heartbreaking story that I am not going to get into) and since then, I have taken that as an opportunity to rebuild my collection, digitally, from the ground up. In that time, I have amassed a collection of 10,000 songs, which translates to about 1,100 albums. Not bad. Of course, the upkeep on a collection like that is fairly daunting, if you want to keep artist names, album names, song titles, and play order correct. (I do. One of the quirks of being an artist myself is that I respect how other artists title and order their work)
One of the things that I have really latched onto though is the cover art, and more specifically the iTunes feature, CoverFlow. It allows for a digital copy of the artist’s work to be identified with the unique artwork that they create for the music. Since the 1960′s, cover art has been inseparable from the music that it represents, becoming a part of the musical experience. Except now as we move to a time when music files exist on their own, sans artwork. Of course, CoverFlow is a great step forward by allowing us to have a visual connection to the aural experience, but it by no means replaces the experience of physical packaging. (Think of Led Zepplin’s Physical Graffiti, the vinyl version) That, however, will be sorely missed. But we were already on a downhill slide, as far as packaging is concerned, from records (which had the most real estate), to CDs, and throw cassettes in there where ever you like. (Although, if you remember, the first CDs to come out had large packaging, and a lot of real estate for artwork, but those got a lot of static from environmentalists who were concerned about waste, and were phased out of production in favor of the packaging we have now. And you had to throw the exterior packaging away anyway.)
Design Observer had an article relating to this awhile back that is worth a read too, although it is a bit pessimistic. Personally, I am happy with CoverFlow (although there a few quirks with the program) in theory, as I am able to have that connection between the music and the visuals. My hope is that we will be able to also have liner notes, production notes, etc. along side the cover art at some point, completing the experience.