13
Aug 04

All the talk downscreen

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 327 views

All the talk downscreen about the ‘uses’ of music got me thinking. Thinking about shelving. Sure, I ‘use’ music as much as the next blogger but the music I actually ‘use’ is pretty much entirely dependent on storage. Being stupidly disorganised and pathologically unable to shelve things correctly acts as a kind of shuffle button, but one that is a bit broken, turning up the same things at certain intervals. You can’t rely on, say, Bert Kaempfert for listening to when you’re in the shower if you don’t know where that particular Bert Kaempfert record might be. Having just too many records, in too many formats, scattered too widely and in no particular order takes that difficult job of choosing music out of my unreliable hands. Whenever I attempt a major or minor reorganisation, often prompted by a DJ set or some whole-hearted response to some useful trend, new things turn up close to the stereo. They will then suffice, give or take, with the floor and two legs of my bed as the pending tray.

In this era of middle-aged men ranting about iPods, how music is stored seems to be very relevant. It looks like some of the attraction of the iPod – although I speak as someone who has never seen one from less than ten feet – is being able to access things quickly and efficiently, whilst allowing yourself to fall into the warm embrace of the random setting. Even without turning this into a muso version of that film about Iris Murdoch, it all seems awfully clinical compared to my romantic mess. My best mate has managed to get all his music on his hard drive and it looks beautiful if not oddly depressing. I realise lack of order is very quaint and cottagey but I like it. I find something very reassuring about not knowing where things are. In fact, it’s part of the reason I persist in buying vinyl. 12″, 7″ and LP lead to disorder: you can’t see their spines properly and, collectively, they’re just too big to take in at once. It’s also part of the reason I don’t particularly like downloads and P2P. Although I do dabble, having things at your fingertips is just too bloody easy. Add this to CDs (especially those in cardboard cases) and MP3s and you have a blissful, uncontrollable mess. Of course, there’s also something heartwarming about seeing records flailing off shelves and carpetting the floor. It’s like the geek equivalent of an artist’s paint splattered jeans.

I suppose this is part of what I actually like about music, its ability to be bigger than me. I like my record collection to be representative, not archival, like a 3D realisation of the blogosphere I suppose. In a non-High Fidelity sense, it owns me rather than vice versa. Disorganisation, my friends, allows practical transcendence. It allows you to reach some happy medium where you can embrace art in the Romantic, gushing sense and still use it like some high-quality instant coffee. Disorganisation is the third way. Or something.

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