“Composing” for the jukebox

Today I’ve finally started working on what music I want to put in my jukebox. With the sheer volume of music I have laying around, plus all the random tunes floating around in my head that I do not yet own, it’s been a hell of a task.

So far, I’ve only gone through one of my dressers I use for CD storage; leaving around eight zipper albums of discs, a bookshelf of stacked CDs, another dresser of discs, and who knows how many spindles worth of CDRs. For now, I’ve decided to ignore my vinyl and tapes– the last thing I want is to spend hours recording records and tapes into my computer, yuck!

Jukebox interior, with hinged cover up.

Nevertheless, the process has been extremely interesting to me. As with any presentation format, the jukebox has its own unique qualities that I’ve been discovering along the way. First off my family and I will be the primary audience, so in that regard, it’s something like an iPod. On the other hand, I’ve settled the jukebox in my kitchen, and it’s over 300 pounds… so it’s not nearly as mobile. That means anytime I’m listening, I’ll most likely be in the kitchen– similar to how an ordinary stereo system stays in one spot.

Of course, it’s not a stereo system. Unlike a normal stereo, the jukebox is only designed to play one track at a time. Up to 99 tracks can be queued, but must be entered individually. Because of this, no benefit is bestowed upon albums in the way they are played in a typical stereo, where a listener might just let an album play on through the intended track.

The jukebox is quite cold in this regard– only the individual tracks matter. With 100 spaces for discs, I’ve found remarkably few discs I want to add in total– somewhere under 25, I believe. For the remaining 75 slots, I plan to burn compilation CDRs of individual tracks.

To this end, I spent much of today going through my CDs one by one, ruthlessly culling tracks from albums. What surprises me are how few of my favorite albums actually made the cut– Patti Smith’s “Horses” is absent, as is “OK Computer”, “Sang Phat Editor”… no Crass albums, no Nirvana, no Jimi Hendrix. To be sure, tracks from all of these will appear in the compilations; but used as a whole in the jukebox, they just don’t work.

Jukebox operator codes, neato!

Let’s face it, nobody wants to walk over and punch in 32 different numbers to queue up “Horses,” and on Jimi’s concept-type albums like “Electric Ladyland,” the experience of listening straight through just doesn’t work well on the juke. Instead, I feel gently encouraged to find the stand-alone tracks and save the rest for my normal stereo.

But what did I expect?

Jukeboxes are from another time, long before the so-called “album” was ever thought up. 78’s (and eventually 45’s) were best-suited for an era of doo-wop, blues sides, dance numbers, rock singles, and pop music… and that’s got to be what jukeboxes handle best as well. In a way, it makes my machine seem like some sort of unwieldly, impossible monster– saddled with the body of the compact disc, but the heart of a 45 record.

4 Responses to ““Composing” for the jukebox”

  1. Ms. S Says:

    So, did Mariah Carey or Barry White make the cut??

    How ’bout the Banana Slug String Band? Quality educational music for the kiddies… :)

  2. Zee Says:

    Hi! I came over from NaBloPoMo. I’m challenging myself to comment on as many blogs as possible this month as well as post.

    How very cool it would be to have a jukebox sitting in the kitchen! I would be totally intimidated by the actual picking of songs to go in it, though. I have a hard enough time making playlists for my iPod!

    Happy Posting!

  3. Sara Says:

    Found you via NaBloPoMo, too! What an awesome project. Hope it comes together perfectly!

  4. Graeme Says:

    Haven’t things, in a way, come full circle though? As far as I can tell, one of the outcomes of “mp3 culture” is that there’s a shift away from the album as a format, and I think we’re going to see this more and more as downloads become more prominent. Instead of going to the store and buying a record or a CD, people are now able to purchase/download individual tracks, and it seems that people are doing this. So perhaps the jukebox isn’t quite so ancient as it seems. It’s still at least a thousand times more awesome than an ipod though.

    From the title of this post, I thought that you were using the jukebox as a tool for composition. Any plans for that? I’m sure that it could be done somehow (I’ve seen people making sounds from scraping dry ice across an amplified and heated metal table, so I suppose that virtually anything can be used to make music) though I don’t know exactly how.

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