Vinyl Records Find a Second Life on the Dinner Table

Tuesday, July 05, 2011 - 10:24 AM

Over the years, some of the most popular questions we've fielded here at WQXR have to do to do with old record collections – especially 78’s.  Can the records be sold? Can they be given to schools… or libraries? Surely there must be a place of honor for these cherished musical memories that have been preserved with such loving care. After all, some fabulous performances risk being forgotten forever if the records are simply discarded, right? And what about the ongoing "quality" discussion? I mean, do LP's actually sound better than CDs or downloads?     

If you still have a collection that you love (I have two boxes that I refuse to give up under any circumstances!), then you can imagine how surprised I was when I sat down to dinner in a charming restaurant in southern France last week only to find the likes of Vladimir Horowitz and Alfred Cortot strategically positioned on the table to serve as – yes - the placemats! The waiter explained that the LP’s were quite useful. “Even on a windy day, they never move," he said.

Am I being ridiculously sentimental here? I have to tell you that I had a very hard time watching hot plates of grilled fish landing on the labels. I kept wondering, ‘Has it really come to this, or, are there better solutions?' If you have some good ideas on how to preserve or re-purpose vinyl, I'd definitely like to hear them. So, shoot!

At L'autre côté du Lavoir in Saint-Didier, France
At L'autre côté du Lavoir in Saint-Didier, France
At L'autre côté du Lavoir in Saint-Didier, France

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Comments [11]

Steve Lepp from Verona, NJ

I am hanging on to my 331/3 vinyl records. I have many CDs which I enjoy. There is something about the vinyl record, compared to CDs...The Philadelphia Orchestra in the Ormandy years was noted for the warmth of its sound. Other orchestras were great in their own way, but there was a lushness about the Philadelphia. I see a parallel in the sound of the LP vs the CD.
I have a turntable near my computer and use a device and program from Roxio to record the LP onto a CD. I have a small preamplifier ( about $25) required by the Roxio. I haven't played them side by side to compare the sound. I do this to preserve the contents of the LP.

Steve Lepp

Oct. 14 2011 10:30 PM
Whitese from North Bergen, NJ

Well, there is a bit of ambivalence. Sometimes people (especially the young ones) will notice these old LP's and ask and wonder about them. This could lead to them exploring the wonders of modern vinyl playing. Its a win-win situation. Most of the 78's or even the older shellac records are in poor shape. You need TT's that play 78's, needles, and to play shellac, different gear.

But if it draws a few more people to explore your regular 33 1/2 rpm LP, so be it!! I know I introduced many of my high school students to listening to some records!!!

I just wish the radio stations played more vinyl and less digital.

Aug. 03 2011 09:40 AM
Bruce - Forest Hills, N.Y.

I have recently seen for sale at retail modern turntables with cables and software to connect to a computer and record the content of vinyl records into computer files on the hard drive They can then be stored, listened to or downloaded onto CD's or MP3 players. The biggest drawback I can see to this is the time necessary to do the conversion, but it is probably well worth the investment if you have cherished performances which were never made available on CD.

Jul. 14 2011 03:52 PM
BRUCE - Forest Hills, N.Y.

#1:I may be mistaken, but from what I can see of the labels in the pictures in the slide show, the "place mats" appear to be considerably older - more likely 78's rather than LP's. Most 78's were a shellac based medium which is considerably more rigid, quite brittle, and much heavier than the vinyl material used for LP's.

Jul. 14 2011 03:40 PM

I'm all for recycling but it breaks my heart to see vinyl used in this way. It really belongs on a turntable not a dinner table as a placemat. I have a large collection of record albums (yes, we used to refer to vinyl as record albums) and play them on a daily basis. Consider buying a new turntable and at your next dinner party "spinning" some Mozart or Bach for your guests. They will thank you for the quality of sound coming out of your speakers.

Jul. 07 2011 07:19 AM
Bruce Haxthausen from Manhattan

Wednesday's live performance of the Kinderscenen was great ... especially the hall's acoustics, which faithfully relayed the incessant coughing of an apparently unwell audience ... UGH.

Jul. 06 2011 12:26 PM
Neil Schnall

This repurposing of what should be regarded as treasures strikes me as an obscenity.

When I was in college at NYU, in the last years of there being a campus in The Bronx, the library decided to discard its collection of 78 RPM recordings. They had piled several hundred albums of them into a hallway in the depths of the Gould Library building, a creation of famed architect Stanford White (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NYU_library2_crop.jpg). This would have been around 1970. I got my father to bring his car over. He was driving a 1969 Lincoln at the time, a car about the size of a small yacht. We piled those 78s into the trunk, and the entire back seat and floor. The weight of all those records made the rear of the car sag until the tailpipe was nearly dragging on the ground. I will never forget that ride home to the other side of The Bronx at a 30-degree angle. Those records have been moved a number of times since, and they are still with me at my home in NJ. A great many of them have never been rereleased on LP or CD, and there are quite a few genuine rarities among them.

I guarantee that, as long as I live, not one shall ever be used as a placemat.

Jul. 06 2011 11:13 AM
Les Bernstein

My 78's and LP's are kept, cherished and listened to, warped though they are, because they're my earliest exposure and longest memory of great music, my family who first bought them, and the artists who made them. I buy CD's and videos and listen to live and recorded concerts via the Internet, but they don't have the staying power of the records, which, like a bibliophile, remind me of where I bought each and every one, to say nothing of the delights of discovery and re-discovery they provide. I never listen to classical music or opera as background music: I always follow the orchesta scores, if I have them, and listen to jazz as background music.

Jul. 06 2011 05:39 AM
yichihara from NJ

Wait! Not necessarily throw your vinyl records away! Even if you already trashed your record player years ago, there are pretty decent turntables for vinyl records out there, which costs even less than $100! Also, some models can convert your vinyl records’ analog sound into digital (onto CD disks). Either way you can still revive your old black discs you cherished. Google or check amazon.com.

Jul. 06 2011 01:17 AM
John J. Christiano from Franklin NJ

I would hold onto and preserve these discs as long as possible. I foresee a time when a laser "stylus" will be able to scan the tiny grooves and read the almost invisible imperfections that make the sound.

Jul. 05 2011 02:28 PM
Michael Meltzer

The computer is a great thing. For very little cost, you can print out a fresh new map of France for the bottom of your birdcage, every single day.

Jul. 05 2011 01:28 PM

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