Sunday, June 26, 2011
research for MA Graphics Symposium: I Buy to Belong
With this digital age of non objects in the music industry, what are we leaving for our grandsons?
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
Originally published in:
There is nothing quite like the feeling of thumbing through LP after LP in a dusty old record shop, only to stumble upon some hidden treasure, new obsession or forgotten love. Old Rare New: The Independent Record Shop is a homage to the holy places of music collecting, complete with their particular anecdotes, peculiar characters, and unique environments.
There is nothing quite like walking into a strange little record store in a town far from home and finding a record you've been after for so long, you didnt even remember you wanted it until you flipped through the bin and saw it. There is no similar charge available online, and it can't be gotten from a CD. It is something unique to vinyl and little stores and the people who live to breathe their air.'
What a collector loses (and gains) in the age of music downloading
By Jeremy Eichler
Piles of CDs surround me. I have been feeding them into my computer to suck the music out of them. And then I pack them away.
Discuss Do you digitize your music?
My Mac does not discriminate. Dufay or du Pré, Eno or Ellington, the computer digests them each with the same chipper whir, and check marks appear on my screen next to each MP3 file I have just created. I think I am supposed to feel accomplished.
But this has been an exercise both exciting and melancholy. My own CD collection once commanded a proud stretch of home-office wall space, but it has become a casualty of urban living with a growing family and I have been slowly transferring it into an iTunes library on my hard drive.
Of course, the conveniences of this approach are vast and, several years into the digital music revolution, still astonishing to me. A few keystrokes pull up exactly what I’m looking for. A couple clicks and 10 majestic symphonies of Gustav Mahler pour onto my cellphone, ready to be summoned while I’m stopped at a red light or sitting on the train. The novelty has not worn off.
But as I haul boxes of discs down to a basement room - at a time when CD stores have all but vanished from the local landscape and musical downloading has reached a tipping point in our society at large - I’ve been thinking not only about the virtues of high-tech listening but also about what’s been lost in our headlong sprint into the digital future. This is not a Luddite’s lament, or a cri de coeur about the significantly reduced audio quality of those compressed MP3 files. I love having more music at arm’s reach than ever before, I love taking it with me wherever I go. But I do find myself wondering why, exactly, collecting music now means so much less.
On the shelf
To begin with, there is nothing left to hold in our hands. Recordings have of course always been physical objects, ever since the first known recording device, a phonautograph, was created in France in the mid-1800s. Its inventor did not design it to play back a song - he could not conceive of such a thing - but merely to visualize the music as lines on paper. Before we could dream of reproducing sound, we simply wanted to hold it.
And still do. A recording documents the presence of musicians who are no longer there, but the thing itself can stand in for them, can mediate our relationship to the music we are hearing. We like to turn it over, gaze at the cover art, devour its liner notes, and arrange it on a shelf in a way that gives it meaning in the context of the other albums we own.
It is extremely hard to fetishize an MP3. A digital file that lives on our computer is immaterial and deracinated, shorn of context, not to mention liner notes. Even with CDs, whose charisma is much attenuated, you can still marvel at their silvery iridescence, display them on your shelves, and squint at their spines.
In other words, they can still serve one of the unique functions of many collections, be they music, books, or photographs: They help us hold together the fugitive pieces of both a historical and a personal past.
The personal aspects loom large for many collectors, and a home library becomes a kind of autobiography, an index of one’s quirks, passions, and adventures. I love for instance my recording of the Tokyo Quartet (with violinist Peter Oundjian) playing Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden.’’ The performance is great, but if I’m honest, I’d say I love it even more because of the sticker from “Uncle Bud’s Deli’’ truck stop that was whimsically slapped onto the CD while on an epic road trip in my early 20s with my string quartet. That sticker is still there, brittle and crinkled, and the entire album has become a kind of jewel-cased madeleine
Virgil Dickerson, Vinyl Collective
We try to make each pressing on a distinct color and usually press 2 colors initially, says Virgil. There are a lot of debates on colored vinyl, but we try to press releases on limited editions on color so that people can have special, one of a kind collectibles. I personally don't care so much if my records are on colored vinyl so long as it sounds amazing.
Record collecting can get out of hand as well, he continues. - Some people try to collect every variant of their favorite bands and some bands/labels have been getting ridiculous with pressing after pressing.
Vinyl – A New Perspective
Records also seem to have some interesting history that makes them appealing. Going around from vendor to vendor, you strike up conversation. Sometimes it’s about how the records came from a radio station, or maybe you get wrapped up in someone’s memory of a concert, or just a recollection of another time and place that fits perfectly with the music you are buying. Every record has its own personal story. Every scratch or scuff has its own place in history. Doodles line the faces off The Beatles on their Let it Be album, telephone numbers are scattered all over the back of Billy Joel’s The Stranger. No two records are the same, even if the music on them is.
You can't really perceive a sound or an image until you hear it, see it, at least twice.
'Event' is not a ritual category at all, precisely because it does imply uniqueness. To have ritual value an 'event' must recur. In other words, it must not be an historical event at all, but an instance of something timeless. There is no original musical event that a record records or reproduces. Instead each playing of a given record is an instance of something timeless. The original musical event never occurred; it exists, if it exists anywhere, outside history.
Repetition is essential to ritual...
There is something soul satisfying about a ritual that separates music from noise, culture from chaos.
The musical ritual that punctuates one's life can become merely syntactical, if one lets it. The record that has been in the turntable all summer may become a drug. When exact repetition is automatic, meaning comes easy and goes the same way. Mechanical reproduction makes private ritual convenient, but cheap.
Ceremonies of a solitary, "The Recording Angel", EVAN EISENBERG
"The Vinyl collection at Rathmines Library is to be discontinued because of space problems and lack of use. There will be a three tiered approach to the disposal of the collection.
1. It will go on free offer to all DIT staff and students. Call to the Library from 23rd May – 17th June to select your choice.
2. Offer to Oxfam in Rathmines
3. Offer to British Library sound archive.
The Library will retain any Irish material and Bach material to supplement the Leahy collection."
Collecting Music Memorabilia
By Shaun Mushike
Music lovers all over the world have the habit of collecting music memorabilia. Connoisseurs of music like to collect and nurture any memorabilia that is associated with it. You may be a music lover of any genre and style, be it rock and roll, heavy metal, classic rock, rap, hip-hop, country or folk; it does not matter. You would always find an inexpensive and exciting memorabilia to cherish for a long time to come.
Do you love a specific band or artist? Then collecting memorabilia is a gratifying way to surround you with more than just the sounds of their music. While other people might opt to collect stamps, coins or some other rarity, as a music lover, you can showcase your musical passions as art, and spark conversations with friends and admirers who are always impressed and fascinated with rare music collectibles.
It used to be really difficult to try to find the music memorabilia you love. You would have to drive from specialty store to specialty store, wasting time in traffic and long lines. You would also be very, very lucky if you found just exactly the piece that you were looking for. But things have changed drastically now, thanks to the Internet and some of the more popular Internet auction sites such as eBay. It's now easier than ever to get your hands on the memorabilia you want.
Why do we like to collect music?
It’s been a couple of days now since I read it, but I keep thinking about an article I read in The National Post, which has been running a series of pieces about the seven deadly sins. The one I read on Tuesday was all about greed, and in particular, about how some people hoard music. But these people aren’t collecting antique wax cylinders used in Edison’s time, or 78 rpm slabs from the Victrola days; they are collecting mp3 files — in some cases hundreds of gigabytes worth of them.
For example, the story describes a member of a group on Last.fm (called the People With an Absurdly Large Music Collection group) who has more than 75,000 files, or about 368 gigabytes worth, which would take almost a year to listen to without a single repeat. Depending on how you calculate it, that’s equivalent to about 7,000 albums or CDs. One of the good things about collecting mp3 files, of course, is that you can have 75,000 of them on a single hard drive, whereas 7,000 albums or CDs would fill several rooms in your house and/or your basement.
Collecting albums seems to make a certain amount of sense from a sort of fetishistic point of view, though, just as having an absurdly large library does (like one of those ones where you have to climb a giant ladder that runs on tracks around the room). Albums and even CDs are physical objects that you can look at and hold, and album covers were a great art form at one time, something that has sadly been lost with the move to CDs and mp3 files. I was just talking with a friend today about how much I loved to look at the old Yes covers by Roger Dean, and Pink Floyd and so on.
But what point could there be in collecting 75,000 mp3 files. Not only would sorting them and tagging them and so on be a gigantic pain, but you can’t even really look at them — unless you run them all through iTunes and use the Coverflow view, I suppose. But still, are you going to flip through the equivalent of 7,000 albums? No. Of course, I guess the guy (and they are always guys) with 7,000 or even three million actual albums probably never looks at half of them either.
I only have about 3,000 songs — but the main reason I do is because I like to put them on shuffle and get surprised by a song that I can barely remember ever downloading or ripping, but one that I remember listening to way back when. That’s a great feeling. And it’s even better when you can do it with a select group of songs you love, rather than just waiting for one to come on the radio by accident. What if you had access to a constant stream of all the music you could possibly want — the way Fred Wilson describes in his recent post? Would people still want to download and keep songs?
From the workshop Música&Letra
Who’s your star?
The idea came from the brief presentation that was given at the beginning and the comments that came after.
It is understood that talking about music and try to understand it, is so vast and complex as a universe. We all define our starry sky, when we fill a shelf with records, or the PC’s memory, or MP3. that’s how we define our universe, what we like in it, and which are the brightest stars. “Who’s your star?” Marked in black on a sky of stars is exactly that.
The process was simple. Typefaces from various sources, very 90’s, and a manhole cover as a stamp.