Listen to the music

20 10 2012

I have a lot of cds.

Eight hundred? Nine hundred? Somewhere thereabouts. Not as many as true obsessive, but, y’know, plenty.

I almost never listen to them.

Oh, I used to, oh yeah, all the time. In grad school I had a cheapo mini-system on to which I could load 7 cds and let ‘er ride. Music accompanied my descent into and out of depression (multiple times), and one of my preps for dissertation-writing was picking out the cds which would take me from, say, 8pm-2am.

I was never much for 45s, but when I hit junior high I started hitting Helen Gallagher’s (the requisite black-light/poster/music shop which dotted small-town malls way back when) for albums. I asked for Foreigner for Christmas and my best friend J. and I listened to her brother’s REO Speedwagon live album (DOOT doot doodlo-doot) over and over again. D. and I would sit in her brother’s bedroom and listen to Pink Floyd and AC/DC (Bon Scott era), and in a junior high art class I carved a KISS sculpture out of a bar of soap.

It was pretty much hard and classic rock all through high school (93 QXM? QFM? out of Milwaukee)—a lot Who, AC/DC (Brian Johnson, this time), Led Zep, Yes,Rush,Loverboy—as well as my aforementioned beloved Supertramp, and then, when MTV hit, what was then called alternative music (mainly British post-punk bands).

I bought albums at Helen Gallagher, I bought albums up and down State Street in Madison. I bought albums at the Electric Fetus in Minneapolis. And then when I decided to run away from grad school, I decided to sell all of my albums.

I bought cds instead.

I had just a few (20? 30?) when I hied on out to Albuquerque, maybe double or triple that when I slunk back to Minneapolis, where I was a regular at the Electric Fetus as well as a few other dusty shops in the Whittier neighborhood. I bought punk and post-punk and new wave and jazz and soundtracks and classical and electronica, then expanded into funky new-wave Nordic music and dub and neo-soul and soul and 1960s-era American and European singers and a few blues cds. I hauled boxes and boxes and boxes with me to Montreal, then set out to buy even more.

I ended up buying hundreds and hundreds of cds in the shops along Mont Royal and St Denis and Peel—but this was due in no small part to my apartment having been burglarized my first Thanksgiving in the city. Hundreds of those cds were replacements, but hundreds more were music which was recommended to me by music clerks and friends and stuff I’d heard on the McGill and U of Montreal radio stations and read about in the alt weeklies. I picked up Daniel Boulanger and Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sam Roberts and Athena knows how many chill cds.

I listened to it all.

My cd-buying fell off when I moved to Somerville, in part due to my reduced financial circumstances, but I still hit up shops in Somerville, Cambridge, and Boston, adding both replacement and new stuff. I had so damned many cds that they overflowed my (generous) storage; I followed my downstairs-neighbors’ lead and took them all out of their jewel cases and just kept them in their sleeves in boxes.

Which is how I transported them to New York. I bought a few cds here, but the urge to survey the scene fell off and never returned: my desire for music had always been abstain-or-binge, but for the past few years I simply haven’t been interested.

It’s not even that cd shops are scarce: there are still plenty o’ joints in the East and West Villages where I could score tunes if I wanted, and, of course, I could always download stuff.  Nor is it that I hate all new music: I think Lady Gaga has fine set of pipes and I’m charmed by Adele and and Janelle Monae is somethin’ else and I’ll hear bits on WNYC or in stores and think Oh, that’s nice.

But the urgency, the need, to own music is gone. I don’t even bother buying music by acts I already know I like—Emmylou and Beth Orton and GY!BE—much less feel that I have to make any effort to find something new.

C. has said that there really is nothing new out there, and I think she may have a point. Some of the newer stuff I like sounds a lot like the music I listened to in the 1980s, so why not just listen to the old stuff? The one genre in which I have bought stuff is classical and (a very few cds of) opera, and that because it is all new to me.

It’s not bad that my enthusiasm has waned—more money for books!—but it is a loss. I loved music, loved listening to it and thinking about it and searching it out and sharing it and dancing to it and everything everything everything. I’ve lost something I loved.

So, I have a plan. I’m going to listen to every cd I own, in (rough genre-and-alphabetical) order, to re-acquaint myself with the sounds that once so moved me.

I’m not trying to recapture my youth (hah!) or somehow go back in time, but given how much this all once mattered, it’s worth it to see if I can recover or rediscover what was once there.

If not, if it’s gone, then I’ll let it go, I’ll let it all go.

But I don’t think it’s gone. I think I just need to crouch down and put my face close and gently blow those fading chords back to life.