Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Restoration

Of course one of the things I was most concerned about when my computer went down late last year was my music collection. It included not just digital versions of most of the CDs I own, but also: a) 99 percent of my old vinyl record albums and cassette tapes that I’d painstakingly duped to digital form over the better part of a year, b) mp3 songs and albums that I’d put together from a variety of free sources and c) all the digital songs and albums I’ve picked up from Amazon and iTunes over the past four years. 

(That latter category is kind of funny to me. Not long ago I scoffed at digital albums and vowed never to buy them. When I saw how much cheaper the digital versions were over physical CDs, and realized that I could burn them to CD myself if I so desired, it’s amazing how fast that old prejudice went down — and how deeply I’ve grown into digital media!)

The good news is, all the music files seemed to be safe on the old drive and just had to be extracted to safer stomping grounds. The bad news is, there seemed to be no easy way to just re-import everything in one clean sweep back onto my new computer. The only thing that seemed to work was to locate the album files, and double-click on every. single. song.

That’s about 12,000 cuts for me. 


It has taken me these three months to reach the point where the end is in sight. 

Again there’s good news and bad news. You already know the bad news. The good news is that by double-clicking every file, iTunes actually creates a clean new copy — hopefully eliminating any corruption that might have crept in over the years. The other good news (well, mostly good news) is that I’ve been forced to listen to at least the first few bars of every. single. song. 

And what that proves is that I’ve done a pretty good job of curating a modest audio collection across a wide range of genres, on a budget and on the cheap, greatly improving my musical vocabulary in the process. Yeah, there are a number of Stinker Albums in there, in large degree the product of my ignorant youth; but the vast majority of it Good Music to Shape Your Life By.

The whole process has made me want to write more often about music and audio… whether in the form of one of those “favorites” lists or as a series of “Great Cuts” or just in an informal series of posts. We’ll see.

You’ll find very little Country music in my collection… and what little I have falls more in the direction of bluegrass folk than towards those godawful twangy-guitar Grand Ole Opry songs about trucks and trailer parks an’ achin’ hearts (note to Southerners: why do you persist in adding syllables to single-syllable words?).

How to sum up my audio collection in as few words as possible? Lots of folk in all its variations, lots of pop, lots of rock in all its variations (including a good hunk of what they call “progressive” rock, and the fruits of a recent interest in head-banging “operatic metal”), a good representative hunk of classical (including the near-complete light operettas of Gilbert & Sullivan and a boatload of Baroque), some New Age, a lot of eclectic stuff that combines all sorts of genres, a smattering of Jazz (all of it of the Vintage sort), a swig of full-blooded cafe-cabaret… and other international styles. Spoken-word comedy albums. A bunch of Vintage Radio. A little of most everything, and a lot of some. 

This morning as I write this I’m listening to Loreena McKennitt and considering whether I need more of her. The one album of hers that I have, The Book of Secrets, is something that I’ve enjoyed off and on for years, sometimes late at night, sometimes on the evening commute back home from jobs that I hated. She combines the more atmospheric and lyrical forms of Celtic music with Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean styles; I like the Celtic bits better than the other, so sue me. A Goth group called Dead Can Dance also dabbles in Middle-Eastern styles, and although this may seem astoundingly racist, all of that crap sounds the same to me.

What I’m really saying is that WHITE people IMITATING Middle-Eastern styles all sound alike. And they do. 

I suppose it’s fair to compare the Celtic bits of McKennitt to the work of that other Celtic-themed lady, Enya. Their vocal qualities are similar, but McKennitt’s music is richer, more steeped in tradition, more adventurous and far, FAR more Romantic. In fact I’d have to say that Enya has little Romance in her soul, and that — although I like her very much — on a purely emotional level her work is that of a Cold Fish. Sorry Enya. 

Both stir Romantic feelings in me, but these feelings are of a peculiarly futile nature. I feel the same about McKennitt and Enya in her Castle as I used to feel about Lady Di after her divorce: you’d sell your mother to the Arabs to be with them, but just exactly how does a dumb schmuck like me, an Asperger’s case from Maine, show a Good Time to the Princess of Fucking Wales?

— Freder

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