2016: A Music Odyssey – DISCOVERY ONE: Explorations of the Innerspace Archives

I had a nice afternoon to myself today so I got comfortable in bed with great tunes on the Hi-Fi and started revisiting my copy of Simon Reynolds’ RETROMANIA: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past.
 
I was grabbed, yet again by a chapter on collector culture, addressing vinyl fetishism, and the impact of the internet on collectability. Reynolds explored the psyche of the collector. First, how collectors identify themselves as somehow more noble than common mall zombies in that they are discerning and well-informed consumers. Their collections serve not their own interest, but act as professional research material to enrich their understanding of music history.
 
Then comes the pivotal moment when the collector realizes his/her collection may have exceeded the actual capacity they have to consume it in their limited life time. “Those potential pleasures stacked on the shelf stop representing delight and start to feel like harbingers of death,” Reynolds writes.
 
He goes on to identify the collectors’ need for constant craving, and that the one elusive missing album is always the most important, (until it is inevitably replaced with the next of holy grails).  This sort of niche activity was a fringe interest for decades, but at the turn of the millennium advancements in distribution technology made budding collectors of us all.
 
Still, a burn-out was inevitable at this rapid pace, and it came with the iPod. The chapter addressed the digital hording that takes place for so many users who discover that they can have all the world’s music for free, and the failure of such a model to satisfy the psychological anxieties previously fulfilled by the physical incarnation of collector culture.
 
The little white box, Reynolds notes, is a remarkably anti-social device. No matter how much music you pack into it, there is no personal memory attached to newly-acquired recordings. And earbuds isolate your musical experience, shutting out a world of potential participants.
 
And with no investment attached, the music is stripped of any potential significance. Hundreds of thousands of tracks might sit dormant on a player, unlistened or deleted entirely, with little to no consequence to the consumer.
 
Perhaps that very burn-out – the inconsequence of the music I compile has led me to start investing in exceptional works, like the several limited edition deluxe box sets I’ve ordered in the past month. After throwing a hundred dollars at a special collection, you’re damn right I’m going to set aside some time and actually LISTEN to the thing.
 
By the chapter’s end, I found myself back in my office taking notes on large collections I’d compiled but never explored after the initial acquisition. Given my own hording tendencies and the looming mortality such a collection bears, I made a personal resolution  this afternoon to set aside dedicated listening sessions with a checklist of works to survey in the weeks ahead.
 
It would be like “the old days” when I’d saved up $16 for a CD and played that one disc a hundred times until I knew every note by heart.
 
I’m reclaiming my music.
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Published in: on March 13, 2016 at 4:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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