Losing My Music, Or When Good Hard Drives Go Bad

For all of his computer skills and love of music, commentator Paul Ford couldn't stay in control of all the music in his collection. When his hard drive crashed recently, he lost 10,000 songs. Paul Ford is an editor at Harper's magazine and the author of the novel, Gary Benchley, Rock Star.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

You can count commentator Paul Ford among the legions of technically inclined music fans. But for all of his computer skills and his love of music, he could not stay in control of all of the music in his collection.

PAUL FORD:

My heavy, shiny external hard drive, which held all of my music, is now a useless broken lump. It used to have this beautiful relationship with my computer, a relationship consummated over a translucent USB cable, but now my computer won't talk to the hard drive anymore and I am 10,000 songs the poorer for it. Of course, I didn't have any backups, so I tried to fix the drive for an hour and then I just gave up. It's gone. But I was a little surprised at how indifferent I was to my hard drive's fate. My reaction was more of an, `Ah, well' than any great sadness. Honestly, it was almost a relief.

Hard drives, MP3 players, those lists of songs, they tell you a lot about a person: the sort of things they listen to, the choices they make. The same tiny iPod might reveal its owner as a glutton for music or a minimalist. Or, in the case of a friend of mine, it might represent something different because his girlfriend bought him an iPod and put 300 of his favorite songs on it, and then they broke up. Now he can't add music to the thing or import any new songs because of the way the software works with the built-in licensing controls. He can only listen to the final playlist through his headphones, unable to add or remove music until the day comes when he's willing to erase all that's on there and start again.

I know I live a spoiled life when it's a relief to lose all of my music. All of that digital stuff was weighing me down, even if it is almost weightless.

SIEGEL: Paul Ford is an editor at Harper's magazine, and he's the author of the novel "Gary Benchley, Rock Star."

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