Monday, February 16, 2009

Collecting music

For the listening public at large, in every century but this one, there was no such thing as collecting music. The enthusiast might collect art and literature - even, in a weak way, drama - but not music.
"The thing about this [record albums] collector in Brooklyn. He's deaf."
If there were paintings in the parlour no one would ask whether you'd looked at them - you weren't blind; some bumpkin might ask if you'd read all your books, but you had only to reply, as Anatole France (for subtler reasons) once did:
'Not one tenth of them. I suppose you use your Sèvres china every day?'

The colecting of cultural objects can satisfy any number of needs:
1. The need to make beauty and pleasure permanent;
2. The need to comprehend beauty (the danger lies in mistaking ownership for mastery)
3. The need to distinguish oneself as a consumer. In capitalism there are first heroes of production and then heroes of consumption.
4. The need to belong. And in the frantic effort to belong we enlist our belongings. 'Tunes meant people: roads to people, remembrances of them. At the same time the teenagers showed great anxiety about having the 'right' preferences... The cultural objects, whatever their nature, are mementos that somehow remain unhumanized by the force of a genuinely fetishistic attachment.' (David Riesman) Actually, I doubt that these teenagers had reached the point of genuine fetishism, where objects are not roads to people but substitutes for them.
5. The need to impress others, or oneself. The point is that one can have a sincere love of culture without having any interest in it. That kind of love is almost as well satisfied by owning records as by listening to them.

Facts are collected indiscriminately by the naïve empiricist, who lives in fear of missing the one fact that will give meaning to the rest. Meanwhile, classification gives a semblance of order to things. And meaning is left at the mercy of the last hidden mollusc on the last uncharted reef.

The buying is what counts (...later I will play the record, but what will be redundant. My money has already heard it.), which is one reason why the record buyer is insatiable. The desire to buy does not always coincide with the desire to hear music.

For music was now an object that could be owned by the individual and used at his own convenience. There was no need to cooperate, coordinate or share with anyone else. Technically the musicians were still necessary; given the economics of production, so was the rest of the audience. But only technically. Once the record was owned they disappeared.

The cathedral of culture was now a supermarket.

Music becomes a thing, "The Recording Angel", EVAN EISENBERG

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