Collectors are a interesting breed. What in their nature makes them desire and acquire? I have a friend who really prides himself on not being one. Moreover, he disavows any and all clutter in his house. Until recently he held to the idea that if what you own does not fit into a closet it is not worth owning. He kept his wife from buying clothes dressers. But in the end he collected motorcycles. He would not ever refer to it as collecting and he keeps them in a storage unit away from his condo. In these senses he has not cluttered his life with objects. Yet he has two bikes and takes great pride in them. There was talk of selling them in order to get a boat. That was year ago and even owning a boat might fall under acquisition and in turn collecting. I suspect that his will is not the real limit but that the desire is held in check by finances.
My recent mp3 blog surfing has led me to wonder about the nature of collecting. This reminded me of a great article in 5 September 2005 issue of The New Republic
. Michael Crowley writes in “Remastered
” about the decline of the “rock snob.” He laments that the advent of digital music files have brought an end to an era of collecting. Several of his assumptions are valid and worthwhile. But something else lies beneath the surface of the essay. It is a vital component of why music collecting is not becoming extinct but is evolving to a higher and true appreciation.
There was a time when music snobs could physically inspire awe with their collections. Crowley clearly recognizes the ego involved. He quotes the intro to David Kemp and Steven Daly's Rock Snob Dictionary
“Since the dawn of rock, there have been individuals, usually young men, of argumentative tendencies who have lorded their encyclopedic musical knowledge over others." The adjectives here get to the heart of the matter quickly. Even now, as I write, I feel the very thing I want to highlight. I want to write and it is personal while at the same time egotistical. I want to have people read this blog, listen, and envy me. I want the have my thoughts in physical form. Is this a defect in personality or a part of human nature?
What I think Crowley does not quite hit is that that “refined taste” is what collectors really want noticed. The collections are the manifestation of that taste. It is what easily and quickly points the audience to the desired conclusion. The dawning of manageable digital files is not the end for rock snobs (or any other genre's collectors). It is in fact a chance to evolve. It is a clearer separation of taste and knowledge from half-wit and luck
The fact that almost all music is available to anyone is the key to the evolution. It is not the end of it. Collecting was, previously, often a matter of luck. Connoisseurs may know of an artist but never stumble across the album or piece necessary to genuinely display their ascendancy. This aspect has been largely muted with the onset of the internet and digitalization. Snobs are no longer beholden to physical collections. Taste and knowledge are what now pulls them above the masses.
The masses have access to the canon of Great Books. What actually sets the well-read from the rest who has actually read. In Fitzgerald's Great Book, two things impress a guest about Gatsby's library. The first is that the books are real and not cardboard facades. Still wealthy Eggers could buy afford real books. The final factor is that the guest suspects that Gatsby actually read them. What separates the snobs now is that they have listened to the music.
There are numerous mp3 bloggers out there. The possibility is open for countless more to join their ranks. What is happening is not the end of music collecting. The best of these blogs draws the awe-inspiring music to the surface. They display the refined taste and knowledge that deserves true envy. So Crowley is correct in that the days of musty record stores and vinyl collections are dwindling. Any lucky fool with an memory and eye for names could have built an “impressive” collection.
I want to thank the bloggers for sharing the music. There can be no doubt that some are after the praise. Hopefully though they will be eclipsed by those who generously and appreciatively want to lead the masses from the dark cave.