Known Johnson

March 8, 2006

Dig for the sky

Filed under: General,Music — Tom @ 10:57 pm

For the first time in something like 141 days, we got actually rain today. On my way home from work, dark clouds crowded the horizon to the north, and as I got closer to Alissa’s parents (from whom I retrieve Amanda,) they opened up with a healthy downpour. I was glad to see my relatively clean truck covered in raindrops, and revelled in the warm, soft velvety smell of fresh rain. Of course, officially, this doesn’t count – no rain hit Sky Harbor Airport, far south in Phoenix, so technically we’re still waiting for rain. The word is that this weekend will finally, officially break the spell. I can’t wait for a rainy weekend – a great excuse to stay indoors and be lazy. Without guilt, that is.

I told Alissa yesterday that I was going to go extra-lean on my CD buying for a while. I’ve run into this ridiculous situation where I’m stuck on a particular band at the moment (Guided By Voices and everything associated with it) and everything else is just going ignored. Not entirely true, however, now that I think about it – for the first time in ages, I’m actually kind of obsessing about certain long-time loves. This indicates to me that my efforts to trim the excess from my CD collection are working. It’s becoming more clear everyday what is and is not essential, but sometimes the revelations are kind of painful.

As I write this, the thought comes into my head about how selfish and just plain dumb this really is. Here I am having deeply conflicting feelings about CDs that I don’t really listen to anymore when there are people who are deeply conflicted over how they’re even going to eat that day. Nowhere out there is a homeless man or woman faced with the realization that in the 13 months they’ve owned an Ipod, they haven’t even bothered to rip any of the Bela Fleck & The Flecktones CDs for it. This is not an issue – and yet I make it one.

And yet I still ran out and bought it, that new Flecktones album, the day it came out a few weeks back . . . and listened to it twice. I don’t hate it, I don’t love it. I’m completely indifferent to it. And that is what disturbs me – that things that have been long-time interests are starting to slip away from me. I still think they’re a cool band, I still would enjoy seeing them in concert. I just don’t know if I need to own much of their stuff anymore. And so it goes with a number of artists throughout my collection.

So what is it that makes it so difficult to part with these CDs? Is it nostalgia? Is it a slightly OCD need to complete a collection for no other logical reasons than that I have it all? Or is it fear that I’m wrong, that suddenly I’ll be swept up in a deep obsession about these bands again at some unknown later date? The latter has been a problem all along – I simply lack a very good understanding of the difference between what I’m not interested in right now and what I’m truly finished with. I have made a great many mistakes along the way, but I seem to be getting much more accurate lately. There is, lately, a more reassuring thud of ignorance when I think about some bands.

My biggest problem is simply that I like too much. There’s lots and lots of music that I like, but like most people, the stuff that I truly love figures in much lower numbers. I have a real hard time distinguishing between the two, I’m sad to say. This is one of those situations in which I start thinking that a castrophic loss of my entire collection wouldn’t be as traumatic as one would assume it would be for a music-lover like me. To start over, from scratch, what would I completely overlook? What would I scramble to buy again? What would I need?

And so I try to approach it with that last thought in mind – what do I really, absolutely, definitely need? It seems simple at first – my brain rattles off a relatively short list of familiar characters: Rush, Guided By Voices and extended family, King Crimson and extended family, Elvis Costello, David Sylvian, XTC, Iron Maiden, James, Bill Frisell, Einsturzende Neubauten, John Zorn and extended family, Mike Keneally . . . it’s at this point that I have to start looking at my CDs to identify things that I would want back, which, to me, signals that maybe this is the fringe of what’s necessary and what is not. But that’s such a drastic cut to make at that point because I know that’s simply being too short-sighted, that there are definitely other “keepers” hidden in there that I listen to all the time. And that’s when it all gets confusing. What figures in as “nearly essential” and what doesn’t? The simple answer, of course, is just to keep everything, but then the outcome of that is also to probably not buy much that’s not by very familiar artists. And that, to me, is the death of what keeps me interested in things. To stop exploring music . . . it seems alien. And yet to keep on keepin’ all of this stuff seems utterly ridiculous in light of how often I actually listen to it.

So it’s really surprisingly difficult, as embarassing as that might be to admit. My safest criteria so far has been “if the Ipod were stolen, and I didn’t have $400 to replace it, what of all of this would I need to have on hand to listen to at any time?” The answer’s not easy, but it seems to slowly become more clear as time wears on – it’s not anywhere near as much as I have. So what is it that makes me keep, say, those Flecktones CDs – is it love, or is it just pride?



  1. I feel exactly the same way about the new Flecktones CD. In fact, on most everyone seems to be indifferent when it comes to this one…

    Comment by Tom Conley — March 9, 2006 @ 7:12 am | Reply

  2. Really? I thought it was just me, but I’m glad to hear it’s not! I hate to say it, but after the past few albums not really doing much different, I think maybe the Flecktones have run their course. You’d think with that much talent and such an unusual palette to work from, they’d be constantly coming up with new things. It just doesn’t seem to be happening, however. It makes me a bit sad, actually.

    Comment by Tom — March 9, 2006 @ 9:27 am | Reply

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