The Fragile Fragile CD

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Up till two days ago, “scratching” had two musically oriented connotations; namely, the vinyl spinning, hip hop DJ artists’ technique AND (as any audiophile can attest), how those very vinyl LP and 45 “platters” oft serve up a multiple course meal’s worth of scratchy anomalies akin to the “Rice Krispies” snaps, crackles and pops (especially perceptible whenever the stylus starts tracking thru lower dB, acoustic movements.

Well, I now know of an entirely new, third meaning of “scratching” and that’s got me scratching my own noggin in wonderment. Check out how this etymological expansion played out…

Upon cuing up the progressive rock band, Yes’ 4th album (titled Fragile), I had no sooner engaged the CD player’s PB button than my ears were besieged by a scratchy din; worse than anything I’d have ever expected from its distant, vinyl ancestor.

Having totally bought into that eons old “CDs Are Forever” vow and utterly disbelieving what my own ears were telling me, I actually began troubleshooting everything; starting with a visual inspection of the disc for fingerprints. With none evident, next came the entire systems check; my sleuthing the cable “spaghetti” for any breaks / loose connections between amp, audio board and speakers. Again, no probs.

A few quick tests of some randomly selected CD’s all netted crystal clear playbacks; leaving me with the only possible conclusion. In essence, this Yes disc was a No go. Somehow, it had been corrupted; but by what?

Well, all it took was one Google search to instantly reveal an eerily similar account…

“Michele Youket, a Library of Congress preservation specialist, plays a CD of classical piano rhapsodies by Erno Dohnanyi. It crackles, and eventually the sound just cuts out. This is a variant of what’s called ‘CD rot’, Youket explains. In this case. it’s what’s called ‘bronzing’. The outer coating of the CD erodes, leaving a silver layer exposed. And when you leave silver exposed, it tarnishes.”

NPR Reporter Laura Sydell • August 18, 2014 / 5:21 PM ET • [Read Full Article] [access Podcast, too.]

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“So it’s actually changing the composition, and that’s why you hear the scratching there.”

Michele Youket

The odd thing, here, is, in spite of this Yes Fragile album’s 1971 release date, I’ve only owned the CD reissue for a short time and, consequently, there have not been all that many playbacks. Even odder is how there’s no noticeable “bronzing”. There’s got to be some other, at yet to be discovered, damaging agent in play.

While it’s true that I’m a staunch champion of truth in advertising, this is the one rare exception where I wish that a disc titled Fragile had not wound up so fragile.

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Stay Publicly / Properly Masked!
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-30-

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