The second credo, more mystical still, maintains that recording sound on to a physical surface is a healthy, organic process, whereas its reduction to binary digits somehow deprives the music of its "humanity". Harking back to my first dose of digital 30 years ago at Decca's West Hampstead studios, I can summon a grain of sympathy for that position. Early digital was not easy on the ears. The technology was so clinical that microphone placement needed to be frugal and precise. It rarely was. I recall the noise of a carpentry workshop in a digital Tchaikovsky overture. Upon investigation it turned out to be one mike too close to the cello bridges, ruining a good record.
Ten years after those first demonstrations, I watched Nigel Kennedy record the Beethoven concerto in a small town in Germany with an EMI team who were so scornful of his Luddite adherence to analogue tape that they set up a parallel digital feed and challenged me blindfold to tell them apart. I couldn't. Such was the advance of digital ingenuity that the boffins had managed to produce a sound that had the presence (or warmth) of analogue without the disfiguring snap, crackle and pop that condemned the late LP to the knacker's yard.
Today, a teenager with a kit from Amazon can record an orchestral image cleaner than the most sterile dreams of Herbert von Karajan, a maestro who embraced digital ("all else is gaslight," he declared) in his quest for an inhuman degree of sound purity. Karajan, paradoxically, is adored by self-styled audiophiles who crave the "human" sound of needle on surface. Go figure. There is no arguing with Old Believers. "Do I contradict myself?" sang Walt Whitman. "Very well then, I contradict myself."
It is into this logical vacuum that the LP has made its improbable return. Here's why. Music in 2012 is increasingly received by download. Soon, we are told, the physical object will become unnecessary. Many of us already carry what we call "my music" on portable telephones and personal devices. "She shall have music wherever she goes" — the old nursery rhyme was prophetic.
But technology has not kept pace with portability. The sound on iTunes Plus, Apple's premium service, is compressed to 256 kilobits per second (kbps), inadequate for complex, subtle, classical music. On specialist download sites it rises to 320kbps. That is still inferior to CD sound. So disgruntlement grows with download culture.