Andy asked me a few days ago “how I LISTEN to a large record collection.” That’s a very good question.
Given the ubiquity of music and its easy availability, I find myself impatient, a skimmer and not a deep listener. To fight that compulsion, which is not unique to music, you have to have a strategy. In the past, I would periodically select five CDs from my collection of 1300 CDs, at random, and force myself to listen to them in turn, straight through. But this takes commitment, as nothing culturally encourages you to take the time to do this.
At the topmost corner of the shelves alphabetically housing my CDs, I pull down the very first CD, an album called Gonna Get It Wrong Before I Get It Right, by Sam Ashworth. I have to force myself to listen to it in its entirety, as I have some vague remembrance that not all of this record is pleasant, that it starts off well and then descends into mediocrity. But at least it starts well, with the Beatlesque “Look Back,” penned by Ashworth along with Matt Slocum (of Sixpence None the Richer) and the talented John Davis.
Getting down on the floor, I pry out the very last CD of the collection, So It Goes, by Rollyn Zoubek. Who? I have no idea who this is. Ah. . . I see. It was produced by an amazing friend and guitarist, Brooks Williams, and released in 2001. I think that’s the last time I heard it. But, I tell myself, I will listen to it all. I will.
If you think about it, the combined length of all these albums together, assuming 45 minutes per CD, is 975 hours, or 40 days of continuous listening, a number of biblical import. And I’m not even a true collector. Want to watch the dysfunctionality of a true collector? Watch the movie High Fidelity, and then hug your spouse and children.
So how do you listen to a large record collection? Just like you live. One CD, one day, one song, one moment at a time. Existentially. With patience. With commitment. And with a measure of love.