how do you manage your music listening addiction?
Last week my iPod turned 20,000 songs old when I uploaded my six disc set of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music. It feels to me as if I have a lot of music but when I last checked in, my friend Michael had over 58,000 tracks digitized. It’s certainly not a race or anything to see who has the most, but we’ve both built CD collections over the years (he more than me obviously) and instead of them gathering dust on the shelves, the hope is that we’ll listen to a lot more music if it’s on a device that can fit into your pocket and travel anywhere. And that is indeed true with me, as I take my iPod everywhere and keep it primarily on shuffle mode, which allows some programmer’s algorithmic equation to decide what I’ll hear and in what order. One less thing to worry about.
Since reading the United States of Americana a couple of weeks ago, I’ve mentioned the book a few times in some of my recent posts. While the author only spent maybe thirty pages or so talking about music, it has had a pronounced effect on me. I have a fair amount of what I guess might be called old time music on my iPod, but it’s rare that a track will pop up more than once or twice a week. And so I’ve been calling up certain artists from the Carters to the Louvins, and the Delmore and Monroe brothers. And those tracks from Harry Smith’s collection, along with a few old blues and spiritual songs I’ve kept over time. Some jazz bands from the twenties and thirties too, although I’ve never considered myself much of a buff. And doo wop from the fifties. I don’t know why, but there has been something inside of me that’s driving me back to re-discover some great old American music.
There’s a series I write sometimes called “the alphabet project” that has been stalled at the letter K for the past month or two. The concept is (or was) that I’d spend a few hours looking at some of my favorite and maybe slightly left-of-center artists, one letter at a time, and make recommendations. I designed it more for myself than you the reader, because it forces me to actually dig into my collection and check out things bought, up-or-down-loaded, and hardly listened to. I started to work on the letter L yesterday and stopped after a few minutes. All I wanted to listen to was some Doc Watson and Bill Monroe duets.
Fearing that I’ve developed some malady, late last night I took advantage of being on the mailing lists of several record labels and still having a few old friends in the business. I furiously uploaded new albums as fast as I could and this morning I listened to a bunch of it. Antony and the Johnsons, Autumn Defense, Blues Preachers, Darden Smith, Kasey Chambers, Giant Sand, Mavis Staples and Sufjan Stevens. I’m ok now. I’ve calmed down.
But I wonder…do I have too much? And do I need anymore? According to the little counter at the bottom of the iTunes window, I’d have to listen to my music non-stop for 51.8 days in order to hear everything I own. And my iPod will only allow another 39 gigs of music, which means I’ll have to actually soon start to create playlists and make actual choices whenever I sync the darn thing up. And there’s a pile of about fifty CDs sitting here on the floor and a few box sets that I haven’t gotten around to digitizing yet.
This afternoon I think I’ve made a definite difficult decision (which can easily be reversed). For every track I add, I’ll now take one off. For example, there’s only two songs that I like on the new Neil Young album, so I’ve just deleted two of the three versions I had of Big Star’s “September Gurls”. A fair trade. Progress. Maybe.
Should you have a moment to share, I’m curious to know how some of you might manage your listening addictions. Might give us some good ideas about overcoming the ills of having too much when there’s really too little time to enjoy it all.