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Re: arsclist record collecting

On Sun, 4 Mar 2001, k mcbain wrote:
> thanks to all of those who have helped. I must admit, it was the Recording 
> Angel that first inspired me to write about music collecting - particularly 
> the passage about Clarence - i have since interviewed a man almost as 
> interesting as him - possessing 15,000 records, but owning no turntable, 
> playing them only at a friend's...

Yes, that chapter should be required reading for all people who set out to
collect vintage recordings!  You might also be interested in subscribing
to a couple of e-mail lists dedicated primarily to communication among
"collectors."  One is 78-L@xxxxxxxxxx, a general discussion group, and
the other is 78-C@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, dedicated specifically to wheeling and
dealing in shellac.  These lists are archived, and with patience you might
turn up some interesting posts about the collector mentality over the last
few years.

> anyway, further to my last mailing...
>   just what is it that constitutes a 'collector'? - the amount of items, 
> the genre of music, categorization...?

As Mike Csontos has pointed out, among mass record owners (for want of a
better neutral term) there is a distinction to be made between a
"collector" and an "accumulator."  An accumulator acquires records
indiscriminately.  A collector seeks out specific items.  There are of
course many gradations between these two extremes, but a "collection" is
understood as representing some degree of connoisseurship.  For resale
purposes, a "collection" is valued more highly than an "accumulation"
because it's expected to include less duplication and less "junk."
Outside of that the number of items, genre, and organization are
irrelevant in defining a "collection" per se.  

There also seems to be an association of the term "collector" with
hobbyists as opposed to archivists, with the presumption that the former
are necessarily more interested in the thrill of owning fetishized sound
artifacts -- or, like Clarence, the challenge of the hunt.  I don't
believe that the difference is so extreme.  Many "collectors" are quite as
dedicated as any archive to such things as preserving historic recordings
and furthering public knowledge and accessibility -- they simply don't
have institutional affiliations or academic credentials.  

> in an age where portable MP3 Jukeboxes will carry up to 1,200 CD 
> equivalents by 2005 - possibly all downloaded from the Internet (either 
> paid for or poached in some way); where CD burners and mini-disc 
> players/recorders allow those with only the minimal knowledge of music to 
> effectively copy and then possess the 'collection' of someone else; where 
> 'originality' is merely a term for re-appropriating (see bastardizing) 
> records of old in the market place; and where a 'pure' collector finds a 
> much valued track, acquired with much effort, now remixed and released on a 
> compilation album - is the nature of collecting music bound to change?

Yes, but let me qualify that.  There is a value to having "originals" as
opposed to digital copies in addition to that identifiable with Walter
Benjamin's "aura."  Particularly with very early recordings, digitization
and audio restoration are extraordinarily contentious.  Rarely will two
different people produce identical "copies" from the same original disc or
cylinder: transfers will be made differently, different processing will
(or won't) be done based on different psychoacoustic premises.  Listen to
a variety of early sound recordings as available on Napster and you will
find a great variety in sound quality ranging from noisy (or
"un-tampered-with") to underwater-sounding (or "digitally cleansed").
These choices must be made whenever a "copy" is made available either
commercially or for informal swapping, and opinions on these matters are
passionately held by those involved in the process.  Only by owning an
original can someone have access to all the transfers and restorations
whose potential lies locked in the analog groove.  That's "content" and
not just "carrier."  

For those who aren't picky about sound quality, of course, things might
change.  Hitherto, anyone interested in, say, the recordings of Arthur
Collins (an American popular baritone whose heyday was before World War
One) have been available only to people who could buy and play original
78 rpm records and cylinders.  If you wanted his music in ANY form, your
only option was to grub through antique stores or figure out how to bid in
mail auctions -- or to make friends with a collector!  Now there are (I'm
told) hundreds of his songs available on Napster for free download.  Some
people who would otherwise have sought out originals may now be satisfied
with mp3 files.  But of course they're at the mercy of whatever the owner
of the original disc did to the recordings, which might involve the
barbaric amateur use of cheap audio restoration software.  As I said,
"copies" of early recordings simply don't get the full content.  There are
too many variables from the groove to the stylus and on up -- and I'm not
talking picky audiophile stuff here.

> one last question - does a collection, as an entire entity, provide space 
> for collectors to 'produce'?

I presume you're getting at the idea that collecting can be a creative
activity, in which case -- yes.  

Patrick Feaster			 |         + Phonozoic Records +
2627 E. 2nd St. Apt. 11	 	 |       http://phonozoic.cjb.net/
Bloomington IN  47401	(USA)	 |        + The Phonograph Ring +
(812)-339-8243			 |       http://phonoring.cjb.net/

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