[This fragment is available in an audio version.]
Some readers may remember a February 2019 blog post describing how I inherited 900 or so used LPs, mostly classical. As of this week, I’ve listened to all of them (or rejected them out of hand), and kept 220 or so (counting methods were imperfect). Herewith lessons and reconfigurations. Also there’s a companion piece on sixteen albums I especially liked.
The ritual · First of all, I just want to say how much I’ve enjoyed this. It was a late-evening thing, usually the kids away from the big room, so just Lauren and me or sometimes just me. The pleasure comes in quanta of a 20-minute LP side.
I’ll miss it. So as I sat down to write this I grabbed randomly into the middle of the serried record ranks and came up with Fela Kuti’s Rofororo Fight. No recollection when or where I came by this, but it’s good.
LPs, really?! · Yes, really. I do not argue that vinyl is somehow better, in some absolute way, than digital. Nor do I believe that what pleases me is euphonious distortion. If you care about these issues, I wrote a principled defence of my analog habit.
How many? · It occurred to me that I should probably say how many records I now have. So I started counting but found it wearying so I asked Google “How many LPs per foot?” and the answer seems to be 70-ish. If that’s true I have about 600, a number most real collectors would scoff at. But on average they’re really good.
Why 600+ discards? · Because they were scratched, or had lousy sound that wasn’t redeemed by great music, or because the music was objectively bad (for example operetta or Ferrante & Teicher or several albums featuring the stylings of the house band at some resort in Bermuda), or I just didn’t like it. An example of the latter would be anything by Bartok — people I respect like him but I just don’t get it.
On the other hand, I started this project convinced that I hated everything by Debussy but I ended up keeping a few. And, as a Canadian and Bach lover I’m thus a Glenn Gould fan, but the guy who passed on this collection to me had more GG than any human should reasonably be asked to enjoy.
Too classical? · It would be reasonable to wonder if all this music by Dead White Euros is, well, a suspect use of listening time? To which I answer, in 2345, the music from 2021 that’s still being listened to will probably be the really, really good stuff. And I know for a fact it’ll be less white and male.
I’ll be honest: My soul has shrunk in the absence of loud electric guitar noise. Which these days I enjoy only alone in my car. But it’s not like being in the room; I suspect that on my first post-Covid rock-&-roll excursion I’ll cry like a baby.
Too old? · When I look at my Sixteen Classics, the music isn’t just classical, it’s pretty old stuff. Nothing from Stravinsky, any of his contemporaries, or anything later, with the exception of Mantovani’s awesome easy-listening offering, not exactly ground-breaking stuff. I plead guilty and defer to the taste of the gentleman whose records I inherited.
Having said that, I kept a couple of Schoenbergs and Weberns that I expected to hate but didn’t. Should write about that stuff.
Discogs · I had the feeling that I should track which records I was keeping so as a matter of principle I recorded them all at discogs.com, so now you can visit my collection, currently composed almost entirely of the tour-through-900 output. I sort of hate Discogs because the time I used it to try to buy music was such a disaster. But the database is by any sane measure a treasure. And they let me use it for my personal collection-management purposes for no money, so what’s not to like?
New record player · Long-time readers will know that for many years I rejoiced in the sounds produced by my Simon Yorke Series 9. But it failed under pressure. Its construction, while marvelous, offers no protection from toddlers or kittens or clumsiness, and also it’s very difficult to get a new cartridge mounted correctly.
I’d bought, and rejoiced in the sound of, the hand-built Dynavector DV-20X2 and managed to get it perfectly in place and sounding wonderful when household circumstances destroyed it. So, consumed by anger, I put the Simon Yorke in a box and bought a nice Rega Planar Six and stayed with the Dynavector cartridge.
I should probably write more about this choice but for now, suffice it to say that the Rega has a substantial plastic lid that folds down and protects the delicate parts from family mischief. On top of which it sounds excellent. Sometimes I feel I’ve lost a fractional point of quality at the margin, but I can live with it.
Except for, I should sell the Simon Yorke to someone who’d appreciate it.
Nice little hobby · Vinyl has become one. There’s record-store culture and there’s record-player culture and there’s a lot of good music out. You can do it at a reasonable price. Sure, Spotify or YouTube will eventually stream everything, but there’s something to be said for going out and hunting your own music. And there’s a lot to be said for sitting down in a quiet room and listening carefully.