Monday, December 9, 2013

Records of My Life

I know many of you are enduring sleepless nights wondering whether I ever got to cleaning my front room. Well, today I opened that Pandor'a box, beginning with the videos, DVD’s, CD’s and records. Yes, records. (And yes, videotapes.) In my 1,000 plus collection, most are stored in my basement, but 150 or so took up valuable shelf-space that I’ve desparately needed from my overflowing CD collection. (And I predict in a year or so, I’ll have to say to young people, “Yes, CD’s. You actually bought them in a store and put them on a shelf and put them in a player to play. And occasionally read the micro-printed liner notes.")

When records first switched to CD’s, I vowed not to duplicate the ones I had bought. That, of course, changed and over the years, I assumed I had indeed replaced the important recordings I cared about— things like Coltrane’s  A Love Supreme, Duke Ellington’s  Live at Newport, Sonny Rollins Tenor Madness and into an “and so on” that would take up several pages. But going through the records above, I realized that indeed I hadn’t. And looking again through my collection, I felt like the kid in the candy store, re-discovering old gems I had forgotten. Made more amazing by the fact that I tried out my old turntable and discovered it worked just fine. I could actually listen to them! And listen I did while I continued to sort, discard, re-shelf.

Damn, it felt good to hold the old records in my hand! To relish the art work on the cover, to be able to read the print on the back, to remember sometimes where I bought it and who I was at that moment and who that recording helped me become. Indeed, these records in my life are also a record of my life. Without a strong cultural identity to mold and shape me, I realized early on that my American gift (and limitation) was to try to create my own identity from the confluence of my passions and interests. Of course, TV and movies did their part to define some of my dreams and notions, as did my family, my friends, my schools, my time— whatever was in the news or being talked about in the day-to-day conversations. But the act of conscious cultivation of the person I hoped to be came from books and records— and to some extent, still do. With the added attraction of me writing and recording my own.

I was sharing with a friend my frustration with the floating cloudworld of recordings these days, how hard it is for me to find space on my computer for the digital files and how much I missed the concrete object in my hand, be it a record or CD— or book (though still resisting Kindle). By the end, I realized I may indeed have to capitulate and go the i-Phone route. But I'm trying to imagine growing up in this digital world and 50 years from now, going through old digital files and seeing a title on the screen. Ain’t no-way no-how that can compare with the whole gestalt of the trip to the record store, the prized object brought home, read, listened to, shelved and proudly displayed as the next chapter in “the emerging Me.” And then held in the hand again all those years later. I'm grateful for it, am loving listening to them again, am determined not to get rid of them. I just have one nagging question:

“Anyone have an extra attic to store them all in?”

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