Tuesday, August 28, 2007

How to get rid of your record collection and love it Part 1

Have you ever wanted to delete or dump or sell all the music you own and start again? I decided to do this once. It wasn't that I suddenly hated the music I liked. It wasn't even thinking about each individual cassette or CD that made my heart itchy. I realized one evening how the blend of colors on their neatly ordered spines had become as familiar as wallpaper. I wanted to hear something new. I wanted to have heard nothing.

How to go about this? I was 20, at University, I had friends who were music heads but among them I was the chief music head. I would give my records away to them! Immediately compromise began to creep in. Maybe I wouldn't give them away for ever-- just for a year. And maybe I'd keep the most recent 20 or 30 albums...so the purity of the plan was lost, the original impulse diluted until what I had left was a faintly baffling gesture that my friends, being friends, indulged. I "got rid of" 90% of my collection, and a year later I got them back.

But despite the compromise, it worked. I listened closer to the records I'd left myself with. I realized which of my comfortable favorites I honestly missed and which ones I just quietly forgot I ever had. I took more risks in buying new stuff, because I knew I'd be forced to give it a proper go. In short I surprised myself.

So I recommend it! Do it now, actually. Close this window, put all your music onto an external hard drive, give it to someone you trust and tell them to use it as a paperweight until next September, or at any rate until you use your safe word. Or be braver than I was, and tell them it's an early birthday present. Of course now you can just go and download everything again but let's assume you don't.

What might you listen to instead? With the metaphorical cupboards cleared you can listen to anything you like, so it's time to start playing games with your taste, messing around with your music fan OS and seeing what happens.

The most obvious thing to do is to explore new genres-- take something you enjoy but neglect and make it the center of your listening for a while. You could also do the same with a year-- become a time traveler, spend a month in 1975 or 1984 or whenever. Indulge an obsession-- pick an artist and listen to them unceasingly. Or pick a song-- someone on music board ILM recently tried to listen to "Temple of Love" by the Sisters of Mercy 1,001 times. (I admit my own taste experiments were never so hardcore.)

Or let go even further and introduce an element of chance. Go to a P2P server and pick a word you like-- or a name or place. Type it in and grab whatever you get. I did this with "London" and found a whole world: pirate crackle, tourist sentiment, punk icons, hump-happy eurodisco, rainy drones, way too much to process.


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