One of my goals for 2023 is to buy no additional LPs. The reasons for this are two in number: 1) Between COVID-pandemic life and a generally expanded musical life, my record-buying has become, I fear, excessive; and 2) I’d like to be more familiar with my existing collection, and so digging through my own records seems like a good thing to do.
There are, no doubt, nearly-buried or -forgotten treasures around here. Like many listeners, I keep my records pretty well organized, but jackets are slim and one’s movements sometimes quick: alphabetization might not be as tight as one thinks and titles are forgotten or misplaced. The last time I did a thorough run through the collection was a lockdown-derived impulse to separate the rock records from the non-rock records. My listening at the time was once again diverging from rock music and I saw fit to spare myself the added effort of weeding through all of the records to find the creative, improvised, jazz, classical, and other stuff.1 I have come to live with this arrangement but it is still many records and a half-baked subdivision as I proposed provides only a smattering of relief.
I’ll add that my record collection, though sizable 2, is admittedly dwarfed by those of several of my friends. I’ve liquidated at least two LP collections over the years 3, where many my age have all of their records from their whole life. We’re mostly in our 40s or 50s and many of us musicians or in the music business, so as you might imagine, some of the collections I have in mind here are vast! Alas, I have what I have nonetheless, and it has become unmanageable.
I’ve learned elsewhere that when one feels overwhelmed , one might be best served by retreat and inventory. That’s what I’ll be doing here this year, cataloging and tracking my (hopefully) daily reacquaintance with the music I already possess. One point worth making, I think, is that I’ll still listen to new stuff digitally 4 and plan on keeping a list of records to look for when the moratorium is lifted. There’s surely more to say about all of this, about what a collection or archive or library is, about possession and scarcity, about supporting friends and artists one wants to support, about identity and artistry. But we’ll save those remarks for the remainder of the year. We’ve got our hands full enough right now. Happy new year to you all.
As you have likely already observed, this taxonomy — if we can call it a taxonomy and not just a segregation — fails at the outset: what of This Heat? What of Tortoise or Trans Am? Is it simply a mater of instrumentation and backbeat emphasis? I have drawn my own fool’s distinctions and they are at best inconsistent. And why not? This isn’t the turn of the century or something. No one else is looking for a record on these shelves. This is the kind of exercise I’m prone to in the best of times. Such organizational strategies have flourished during the times of COVID-restricted activity.↩
Roughly 25 linear feet, including box sets and a foot or so of my own work and excluding CDs. At 80-100 records/foot, I’m looking at well over 2000 LPs, a number in much more rapid expansion these last, say 7-8 years as both my music-making and listening have grown.↩
Once in 1988 to raise $ for CD purchases and again around 1996 to raise $ and make way for my burgeoning jazz listening.↩
I’m not a monk!↩