Friday, May 14, 2010

Collection Overhaul.

So, I recently tackled a reorganization, or, perhaps more accurately, a reassessment of my record/CD collection. I wanted to make it more focused, easier to navigate…it was as if I was living with a certain level of anxiety about my collection, and I wanted to see if I could reduce said anxiety at all. From whence originated this anxiety, you ask? To be honest, I’m really not entirely sure. I do know that a few weeks ago I was in New York and had the opportunity to look at and study my friend Kirk’s record/CD collection, and I was in awe of the efficiency of it. There was no fluff, no ephemera to speak of, only a really complete, admirable collection of music by artists that he genuinely cared about.

I set about duplicating this effect in my own collection once we arrived home. Most of my CDs have been living in our garage for the past couple of years…we didn’t really have room to store them in our current residence. I have spent most of the last five years or so reducing their number, a little bit at a time…they had reached a pretty massive balloon point sometime before K.C. and I got married. So in these past few years I have been sifting, sifting, sifting…weeding out things that I kept just for one song, or for the sake of completion, or for some sentimental reason that ultimately doesn’t hold up. I unloaded at least a hundred discs last fall so that I would be guaranteed the adequate funds to purchase the Beatles In Mono box set when it arrived. So the process was already in motion.

I managed to cull another hundred discs or so out of the collection, some of which I ripped into mp3 format and stored on a data disc, others I cut off like an unwanted parasite. There were things that I felt sure I would always want to have around that I felt no need to own anymore. There were things that had some value to me at one time that were nothing but nostalgia now. It should also be mentioned that many, many songs that I know I have in CD quality format on my “Soundtrack to My Life” series could be jettisoned, especially if they came from albums that I wasn’t really excited about overall, OR from “greatest hits” collections. With a couple of exceptions, I will rarely, if EVER, have any interest in listening to a “greatest hits” disc from start to finish, so I figure that having access to the songs that actually mean something to me in mp3 format is enough.

I culled a few things from my vinyl collection, too, though it is a much smaller body of material, so it doesn’t have as much chaff to separate. I traded in all this material for other records, mostly vinyl, and I love the fact that I didn’t get nearly as much back as I gave up. That’s part of the point; I am reducing the amount that I own, to be more focused, less overwhelmed, so it doesn’t bother me a lick that I traded in around 100 records and got back a dozen. Considering that vinyl is more expensive and the going rate for used CDs gets lower every day, I’m happy with that.

Still, the only frontier I haven’t officially invaded yet is my iTunes. My iTunes is still the one place where I feel I lack focus, intent, and organization…part of this being due to the fact that the “master playlist” feature is still something I dislike (you know, the big playlist at the top of the left-hand column just called “Music”). I don’t WANT a place where all the music on my hard drive sits in a list all together…I want to put it in specific places, playlists, folders, whatever, and have that be the ONLY SPOT WHERE IT LIVES.

From there, it gets more complicated. I start to see my iTunes as a pointless, haphazard mix…I wonder what purpose it really serves in the grand scheme of things. I mean, I know that my iPod can’t be beat in terms of portability, but that hasn’t stopped me from bringing a wallet of CDs on the road with us every time we go recently. As I move further and further away from a world where the iTunes on shuffle is a preferred method of listening, iTunes starts to seem more and more like some sort of albatross that I have been misguided into keeping around my neck. For so long I just wanted to get to a place where I felt like I had my iPod & iTunes situated in such a way that I didn’t want to constantly change them all the time…but ultimately I felt like that led to stagnancy, not a more complete experience of the music I had placed in them. I mean, I have been making conscious choices to enjoy whole records on my iPod as opposed to putting the thing on shuffle all the time, but part of me wonders if I shouldn’t just remove any free-floating tracks that aren’t attached to an entire album, at least for the moment. For that matter, maybe I should do the same thing to my iTunes. Am I moving in the opposite direction from the dominant listening culture? Am I showing my true dinosaur skin? What if I just delete everything in my iTunes and start over?? I guess, ultimately, iTunes has become a storage method for music for me, and I don’t want it to BE that; I want it to be a listening platform. In that scenario, I feel a great need to evaluate and overhaul the CONTENT contained within.

I would welcome any comments on this.

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