Sound Reasoning

My stacks of wax are not record setting in the annals of collecting sound recordings. I know that many of you have garnered larger “golden oldie” mines. I went to locate a particular LP, and in the frustrating process of not finding it, took stock of how many records and CDs I have. Goodness, where did they all come from? I thought I had them arranged in a fairly systematic manner, but unless I lent out the piece of vinyl in question, I’ll have to look through again and try to put things in better order. Or was it on CD? I stood back and looked at my entire wall-o-music, and all sorts of thoughts ran through my mind. Have I lost touch with my favorites, the albums that once were in heavy rotation? How much have I invested in time and money? If I live to be a hundred years old could I make a schedule to hear them all again? Is the floor going to cave in, leaving me buried in a pile of music…a pretty ironic way for Mr. RagTag to perish I think.

Now to be fair, these were not all bought from Tower and Sam Goody. There were many years when I reviewed albums. Unlike most of you, I had received hundreds of recordings during this period “gratis;” some from artists, some from magazine editors, others from record companies and publicists. Therefore, not quite free, as there was a review string attached. Yet, I didn’t hoard, for hoard’s sake. (Do you think I can get away with a ‘hoard of hearing’ pun here?). I shared the wealth. The things I knew were not my cup of tea went to friends of various musical tastes. Sometimes CDs would be packed in bags I could barely lift and delivered to avid listeners, as if I had become some kind of sonic Santa. So – what I have remaining, is, for the most part, what I wanted, not just stuff I would never wish to hear again.

Much of my collection is of classical recordings. I wanted to learn about artists, composers, symphonies, sonatas, trios and quartets. I wanted to get a handle on Handel so to speak, a grip on periods of music, educate myself to an opera or two. That was fun, and the quest to learn seems to have resulted in a sizable number of really great recordings. And I do reach for a favorite now and again, or continue to compare the various renditions of a like works. Then there is the usual popular and standard repertoire from rhythm and blues to Sinatra to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; and Joni Mitchell, that sort of thing. I do get a kick out of reaching for a favorite Willie Nelson or Dylan album. Then – there is that vast and varied archive of “folk” that runs the gamut from singer songwriter, to Celtic, to world, to roots, etc. Blues from urban and rural backgrounds. I start to look about and listen, switching between LPs and CDs, and I realize that – as opposed to listening as you go along; looking back and listening from, well, a library of sorts is a different experience, requiring a different mindset and discipline. I think this must be the same dilemma our Sing Out! radio partners have when they pull recordings for their programs. I am not prepared for this…I had pretty much played things as I got them, then moved on. I am befuddled planning my listening timetable.

For many years, a monthly sing for the Folk Music Society of Northern New Jersey was hosted at the home of “Dave and Jean’s” in West Caldwell, New Jersey. Jean Gille and Dave Blumgart presided over a wonderful song circle, and their home was a feast for the eye as well as the ear. In addition to being a record collector, Dave ran his antiques business, keeping lots of neat stuff at the house. The walls were built-in record racks, floor to ceiling, and these were filled with LPs and older sound recordings (no CDs yet) and music books. Dave could, at the drop of a name, casually walk over to any particular spot, reach out, and pluck the recording in question from its perch. Now, that’s organization and a mind to be admired. Before I ever get around to organizing anything in my life, there will be wooly mammoths peering in the window as I work. So, I took a different tack. I have a strategy that I will NOT make an organized plan for listening. There will be no schedules, no ambling through genres. I have already begun the process of walking to the recordings, selecting one (at a time) at random, and listening to whatever by chance I have extracted from the multitude. It has already paid off in satisfaction and is a most sporting way of moving about. I find I am grabbing things I might not have thought to play, and I am enjoying music I might never have gotten to again. Let’s call it folk lure, a fishing expedition based on sound reasoning, with a whole new angle.