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This TED Talk Explains How Record Digging is Reviving Forgotten Classics [WATCH]

Vinyl has witnessed a revival in mainstream popularity over the past three years. In 2016, sales of vinyl records reached an impressive 25-year high of 3.2 million LPs sold, outpacing the digital downloads market for the first time since its initial rise in 2007. Record players have, again, become ubiquitous; enter any Urban Outfitters location worldwide and you will be surrounded by portable Crosley turntables and hit albums printed on vinyl.

While the charming vintage aesthetic of 12” records and their players is likely the primary cause of this sudden increase in popularity, the vinyl platform carries with it a rich history that should not be overlooked. The earliest forms of vinyl were created in the late 19th century and maintained mainstream popularity until the early 1990’s, when the medium was finally overtaken by digital music in the form of the compact disk. As a result of its long-spanning reign, over a century’s worth of music exists (in limited numbers and with absurd rarity) solely on vinyl.

In his talk at TEDxMontreal, Alexis Charpentier discusses the artistic significance of ‘record digging’, the process by which fanatics find and revitalize the forgotten music that shaped our modern sound. Charpentier refers to himself and his fellow record diggers as “music archaeologists, hunting down the lost artifact”, uncovering holy grails of rare, unheard and even mythical records abandoned in dusty crates.

He tells the story of Henri-Pierre Noel, a Haitian pianist who produced and released his own record in the 70’s. Noel printed 2000 copies of his “Piano” record independently; in a time before Soundcloud and Bandcamp, it fell through the cracks. His uniquely percussive piano styling was a culmination of multicultural influences.

Years later, a digger happened upon “Piano” at a flea-market. He listened to the record and realized he had struck gold. Eventually, he found Noel in person and re-released a collection of his old works with the help of a renowned label. Thanks to this discovery, Noel exited retirement to follow his lifelong passion for music.

Record diggers are the curators and tastemakers who have kept vinyl alive through the digital era. Vinyl’s recently restored popularity may be easily chalked up to aesthetic charm, but let's not forget about those who have sustained the medium through its most desolate years.

Alex Charpentier is the founder of Music Is My Sanctuary, a collective dedicated to “future classics and forgotten treasures”.


H/T: Resident Advisor