Last week I described my experience seeking out and listening to a fantastic Brahms intermezzo. After listening to the piece many times at work, I ended up scouring the web to find a copy to have for myself, and now a vinyl copy of the recording is wending its way from somewhere in the UK to my house in Oakland.
Why did I do that?
In The Recording Angel (the book that started me off on this quest in the first place), Evan Eisenberg posits a “tentative list” of reasons why people collect things. Quoting the first line of each of his reasons, they are:
1. The need to make beauty and pleasure permanent.
2. The need to comprehend beauty.
3. The need to distinguish oneself as a consumer.
4. The need to belong.
5. The need to impress others, or oneself.
I’m sure I can find myself in every category on that list in some purchase or another. In this case, I’d say my motivation is largely related to the first and second items on the list, in that I want to hear the music whenever I want, and I want to absorb whatever threads of insight and vision it might have to offer.
There’s also something else happening for me personally, which is that I want to hear the music in full audio, and I want to hear it in a good listening environment.
Eisenberg (mostly) wasn’t confronted with this when he wrote The Recording Angel, but the typical digital music file not only usually contains about 1/10th of the audio’s full information, but it is also often competing with the considerable visual distraction of the computer monitor, and the considerable temptation to do something else (i.e., check email) while listening (for the curious, we have discussed the digital music listening environment a bit in an earlier post).
With all this in mind, I’ve got a whole gang of music-collecting questions for you this week:
1. What motivates you to buy music as opposed to just listening to it when you happen to come across it?
2. Do you feel that the digital and physical music you buy are of equal value?
3. Do you feel that it is possible to collect digital music in the same way that you can collect CDs or vinyl records?
4. (Extra-credit) Is the intangible nature of a computer file something between traditional radio and traditional records?
5. (Ultra-double-extra-credit) Is there something about music’s new intangibility (aka digital files) that might allow it to be more essentially itself, by returning to the intangible nature music had before recordings were invented?