Monday, April 2, 2007

let's get this party started

I noticed that I own quite a lot of recorded music. Yes, probably far fewer than some, but even leaving manic collectors aside, it's quite a bit more than I should own.

Thing is, I love listening to records (excuse my use of this as the generic term - I'm old) as much as the next person, but I've got my philosophical problems with them too. In my most optimistic moments, I tend to agree with Miles Davis, that a record best serves as an advertisement for a live concert. Too often, the splendor, magnificence, humanity, charm, and gris-gris essential to music is lost in the move from performance to shink-wrapped commodification.

Ah, but what commodities they are ... artifacts, icons, lingua franca of generations. And what worlds they open up - I can't afford go to the opera every week, but I can get a used CD set of Don Giovanni for 5 or 10 bucks and listen to my heart's content. Musical traditions from far-off places and far-off decades can reach me and thousands of others, a state of affairs which is nothing short of miraculous.

The physical-medium recording is surely singing its swan-song these days. Most likely people won't flip through used bins at record stores much longer, serendipitously coming across something with cover art that's intriguing, taking a chance on the unknown. I have no problem with that at all - think it's leading to generally positive, democratic, live-music-centered changes to the music "industry." But meantime, let's celebrate records before we forget what they are.

Did I mention that I have a lot of records? I also don't sit and listen to them deeply as often as I should. I'm going to fix that now. Once or twice a week, I'm going to listen to some recording or other off my shelves, more or less at random, and I'll post about it here. A couple years down the line, I'll have a catalog of sorts here. I'm not going into this thinking of what I write as reviews or recommendations, exactly. More like reflections. Maybe that will be useful to someone else reading?

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