Just wondering. Do you cull your digital music collection? Or, if you have one, your physical carrier music collection?
Larry McMurtry, the author and book dealer who at one point had more than half a million volumes at his bookstore in Archer, Texas, once said that groups of books are always stronger when you cull them.
I have about 13,000 files in my iTunes folder now. I can imagine it would be a lot more useful if I were to cull out the stuff I don't care for from time to time, but doing so comes into conflict with my cheap gene—in my mind, I spent money on the files (I buy all my music, or 98% of it anyway), and if I toss them then it becomes a loss. That's how that works in my brain. Although keeping useless crap hanging around is just a loss in a different way.
All my CDs are now in boxes in the attic. I have a wonderful (okay, qualification again: to me) vintage/used stereo system down by the pool table on which I play LP records.
I don't cull my vinyl either.
The whole issue was highlighted for me a short time ago when I pulled out a couple of old records. One was Brian Eno and David Byrne's "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" and the other was Boz Scaggs' "Silk Degrees."
David Byrne and Brian Eno then and now. The second is a still from Ride, Rise, Roar, a documentary directed by Hillman Curtis and shot by Ben Wolf. The photo above was taken by Hugh Brown. More pictures from the session can be seen here. (Thanks to ron for this last.)
One listen to "Silk Degrees" and I knew for sure that it was music I just never need to hear again. I can grow old and die and never hear it again and I'll be fine with that. No slag on Boz and no disrespect to his fans—just not my thing. But on the other hand, when I put on "Bush of Ghosts," a record I know really well from the CD, the first side was very familiar, but most of the second side was new to me. I'd never heard it before.
"My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" (the title from Amos Tutuola's 1954 novel, and the album a landmark of early sampling) came out in '81, and I bought my first CD player, a Sony D-5, in late '84. I imagine I bought the record at the same time I bought the CD—I did that for a while at first—and then never listened to the LP. I imagine some aficionado somewhere could still tell the tale of why the music on the LP and CD are different, but it points up the peril of getting rid of old things without being careful. "Silk Degress," for me, is completely surplus. Zero reason to hang on to it, which I might do anyway, just because that is what I do. But discovering side two of the "Bush of Ghosts" LP was an unexpected surprise.
Just wondering how you handle it, if you're a music listener and collector.
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Featured Comments from:
Jim Simmons: "We've done huge culls over the years, all prompted by major moves. I am spending this weekend building CD shelves that will hold 500 CDs and one shelf of DVDs, and that, we've agreed, will be the limit we hold to. If #501 comes in, then one goes out. Wish me luck on the discipline!"
Mike replies: Seriously.
Richard Tugwell: "Ahh—my music habits.... Quick answer. No. Why should I? If I don't listen to it, then I don't listen to it. Not having it doesn't doesn't affect that. But—most of my music collection is classical, and on CD. I played around with digitising it but never found that enhanced the playing experience. I like to 'pick a disc,' or pick a work and then 'pick a performance' or pick...etc. etc. etc. CDs are arranged alphabetically by composer in several bookshelves. I have about 1,200 altogether (not a lot by some standards) and I occasionally just browse and surprise myself. I have quite a lot of CDs that are still in their original wrapping, which also says something."
Joe Holmes: "Byrne and Eno were pioneers in taking found music and sound—talk radio, gospel preaching, obscure folk music—and mixing into the blender of their own music and rhythm to create 'Bush of Ghosts.' But when they released the original album, they didn't bother to clear the rights to the found material. This caused problems when it came time to release the CD of 'Bush of Ghosts,' and so they had to abandon some of the tracks that were impossible to clear. Or at least that's my memory of the story I heard long ago. To make up for the loss of some tracks, Byrne and Eno added other tracks that hadn't made the cut for the original release. And I agree with you, Mike, that 'Bush of Ghosts' holds up incredibly well. I still enjoy it immensely. It was recorded around the same time that Eno was heavily involved in producing Talking Heads' 'Remain in Light,' and you can certainly hear a lot of the same sound."
Jack Illingworth replies to Joe Holmes: "The Byrne/Eno revisions have little to do with clearances—legalities were well-looked after on the original release. The most famous change was the deletion of the track 'Qu'ran' from later pressings after complaints from an Islamic organization in London. It led side 2. The CD adds a lot of material but other than that doesn't take things away. Your auditory memory may be tricking you, and if you have a pressing with 'Qu'ran,' well, it does change the flow of side 2 quite a bit. Early CD versions actually saw 'Qu'ran' restored, but it was deleted on anything manufactured after 1990.
"I'm in the midst of a vinyl cull right now. LPs are taking on a new role in my listening as my library of recordings that I want to live with for the long term. I'm buying quite a few as they survive the ravages of time far better than CDs (which delaminate or become otherwise unplayable too easily) and can sound better to boot. Space for them in my living room is very finite. Much of my collection is inherited from friends, family, near-strangers (I accepted a lot of vinyl when everyone was ditching theirs). As such, some has got to go.
"Things that I want out of the listening pile but don't want to lose entirely go to basement storage. Everything else either goes for sale on discogs or goes into triage for a valedictory listen to decide whether it has a future. I'm always cautious; my musical interests have evolved so much that I'm never sure what will catch my interest a decade from now.
"I never throw my digital files away. A well-organized library looks after that. There's always the option of keeping a holding pen folder on your music drives and backups for things you don't want to lose but don't want in the main library. Don't let your playback software index it and you're set."
Joe Holmes responds: "Jack Illingworth's version of the changing tracks on 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts' is accurate, and mine is not, as a quick trip to Wikipedia will prove. My version was based on rumors I heard long ago when the first CD version was released. I'm glad to have it cleared up and to learn that Byrne and Eno didn't play fast and loose with clearances."
DavidB: "Over the last several years I purchased many CDs to replace my vinyl—and then kept both. Mission failure."
David Lee: "David Byrne is also an accomplished photographer, by the way. He used to go to Oaxaca, Mexico, and spend some time doing photography there."
Paul Van: "Some days I just dream about culling my collection(s) to just the essentials. Maybe the top 100...so, I start a list, lose the list, start another list, and repeat. Eventually I find all the lists and discover there is very little material that made it to all versions. I remain perplexed, but committed to simplifying my possessions."