Zen and the art of the record playing ceremony

For many decades the record player – or gramophone (or phonograph) – has given great pleasure to the audiophile seeker. It is the audio playback method of choice for all connoisseurs due to its greater opportunity for ceremony and mindfulness compared to the new ‘digital’ methods, which require the mere press of a button. Needless to say, stereo equipment must be of highest quality, made in Japan or a Scandinavian country, possibly using only warm valve transmitters. The record symbolizes earthly purity, so its preparation calls for the most stringent standards of sonic excellence. From the moment they are purchased and stored, to the time when they are prepared for playing, the highly prized vinyl records are kept with the greatest care. The music must breathe.

Consider the LP record, the delivery method by which the music is transmitted. It is a circle. Like the Yin and the Yang, it has two sides. It contains micro-grooves that receive the record player’s diamond needle (or stylus). It is made of vinyl. For maximum mindfulness, adepts seek only the very best vinyl records, sourced from the purist oil fields found only in the inner sanctuaries of the sacred Himalayas, or from ancient coal deposits along the Ganges where the Master walked.

The album is Carl and the Passions (So Tough) by The Beach Boys, a critically derided album at the time of its release in 1972, but in truth, a most excellent piece of vinyl.

Gaze at the cover artwork. Become one with the image of the red car and the hint of nostalgic good times in the window. Part the sleeve and insert your nose, breathing in the heady aroma of vinyl and pressing plant record sleeve – a smell of jasmine and lotus blossoms.

Carefully take the record out of its sleeve and place it upon the spinning turntable platter. Here is the turning point, the moment of ultimate expectation. Breath deep. Remember: you are here, you are now, you are home, you have arrived. Repeat this as a mantra, if need be. Gently guide the stylus arm so that the needle hovers over the lead-in groove openings of the record. When the moment is right, when complete Zen harmony has been attained, let go – let go of stylus and be free.

Sit lotus fashion on a cushion in front of the speakers. Assume a meditative pose. Allow the mind to settle and become mellow. Then, slowly, tune in to Nirvana experience.

As this is a record that is largely quiet and contemplative, listening to it is an activity to be enjoyed in quiet company and in an atmosphere where there is no unbridled showiness. Instead, there should be a relaxed contemplation and a serene feeling of companionship.

The first track, You Need a Mess of Help to Stand Alone, moistens the lips with pleasure.

The second track, Here She Comes, soothes the jangled ears.

The third track, He Come Down, assuages the loneliness.

The fourth track, Marcella, calms the inner fire.

The fifth track, Hold On Dear Brother, purifies the spirit.

The sixth track, Make It Good, clears the mind.

The seventh track, All This is That, takes me to the realms of the immortals.

The eighth track, Cuddle Up, absorbs me with happiness and brings return to transcendental animal existence.