Saturday, January 19, 2019

collect your self

"Many collectors feel synonymous with the objects they collect and use them to derive or define a sense of self. Though they may not have any objective value, objects collected are seen as uniquely interesting or valuable to the individual collector. Thus as collectors accumulate large numbers of valuable items, they construct the sense that they, too, are valuable by association, i.e., 'The more of this great stuff I accumulate, the more I matter.... [Obsessive collecting] tends to arise out of one (or a combination) of the following three basic human needs: the need for a personal self- definition of worth, the need for a sense of life purpose (or meaning), and the desire for immortality."
psychotherapist Gaelen Billingsley, quoted in this piece by music critic Dave Segal about the trauma of the loss of most of his record collection owing to dodgy removals company 
I have often wondered what would I would feel if by some calamity or other - fire, earthquake, etc - I lost all my records
I would be traumatized, but ultimately I think I would feel strangely liberated
the gift of existential weightlessness bestowed by chance

because right now, all that cumbering lumber of vinyl - painstakingly accumulated, chased, 1000s of man-hours of pursuit invested and embedded in it, the sunk costs of time and libido and life-force pulsating dimly - it is all just sitting there, unused
it is hardly ever played (same goes for the similarly vast accrual of CDs, the cassette tapes also)
because if i want to hear something, it's so much vastly easier to go to Spotify, YouTube, a sharing blog (how often have I downloaded things I already own, simply because it's quicker than trying to find the bloody record or compact disc!), Bandcamp, Soundcloud, et al
so what is the point of keeping all this stuff?

(50 percent of which isn't even here, directly accessible, but in storage, in New York)
since i don't have the will, or the time, to part with it voluntarily - to convert it into useful cash, or even to just have it hauled off by some charity
an act of Fate would do the job, and perhaps do me a favor
not that i'm asking for it, not at all  -  i still am fatally attached to these things, to the delusion of ownership and the counter-factual delusion that "you can take it with you oh yes you can"
the lady therapist is right in implying that to collect and to hold on to things (which chronic obsessive downloading is still an extension of, and in which OCD patterns I'm still enmeshed, hunter-gathering, turning YouTube and Vimeo into audio files - a new frontier of exploration, new vistas of long out of print or never even properly issued in the first place - e.g. soundtracks to experimental films and animations) - to do that is a vote of confidence in the idea that you have enough time left in your life to listen to these things
to download - as I might well do in a particularly OCD day - more hours of listening than would actually fit into that day, in excess of 24 hours of listening  - is a reality-denying, finitude-refusing act of faith in an infinitely prolonged and expansive future for the listening self
as said much more pithily by Schopenhauer:

"We love to buy books because we think we’re buying the time to read them.”

Well that's another subject in itself -  the chronic collection of books. I have in excess of 200 that have come into my possession - bought, sent, found, got through my books-editor spouse - that i really seriously desire / intent to read, but are sitting them, in unruly stacks, in various places in the house, reproachfully staring back at me unread.

but the actual number of owned but unread books is probably much larger, distributed all over, on shelves, in boxes in the basement... things acquired during research binges for various books of mine own... things acquired in the Eighties and never read...


Another piece by Segal, on the theme of "I Collect, Therefore I Am"


  1. Re: downloading tracks that you already own, I have actually *bought* individual tracks on Am*z*n rather than face the faff of ripping it from the record (or even the CD!)

    I've never thought of myself as a big collector, but I do have regular anxiety dreams where I come home to find that somebody has stolen my records. They often leave the crap ones behind, just to rub it in.

    I think one reason for resisting a clear-out is that you would be confirming the previous years of non-play as a complete waste of time. Whereas if you can hold out 'til some mythical point in the future when you *do* play them (or pass them on to grateful offspring, ho ho!), your holding on will have been vindicated.

  2. good point

    also they are nice to turn over your hands and look at all the graphics and information

    even the inner sleeves can be cool - like the ones that have ads for other records on the label. sometimes prog groups you never heard of, ever!

  3. Part of the appeal as far as I'm concerned is about controlling access. IF I solely rely on Spotify et al for providing access to the music I want to listen to, then, would a world in which those corporation not exist happen to come, I would find myself without access to the music I desire to listen to; I couldn't let that occur, so these artefacts act as insurance.

  4. good point

    that's why the 'save it' impulse persists in me, saving YouTube clips or the audio parts thereof, cos you never know if it'll get taken down