Facing the Music

I think it’s clear that with the frantic January we’ve all had – you guys realize we had a civil war for a few days there, right? – the actual start of 2021 has effectively been delayed until February.  Oh sure, we’ve been writing 2021 on our checks for a few weeks now, but in terms of the actual start-of-the-year projects, large and small, which all of us have, I’m sure I’m not alone in only attending to them now.

It’s not a major project by any means, but in terms of the time commitment, one of the projects I’ve finally committed to is going through my CD collection.  (For my younger readers, music used to be sold commercially in pre-arranged collections called “albums,” and during the brief window of time when it could be recorded electronically but not steamed electronically over the internet, the dominant means of recording and selling these albums were referred to as “compact discs,” or “CDs.”  The more you know, etc.) Like anybody, I’ve got a sampling of favorite music from various points in my life – and what with me being old and all, that covers a lot of disparate points.  As an actor, I also have a good number of original recordings of shows I’ve done, or were hoping to do, or otherwise needed for some sort of research.  And as someone who’s worked in music schools and classical concert halls for twenty years as my day job, I have piles of random CDs from over the years – free promotional copies, anthologies of various kinds – many of which I’ve never listened to.

Do I listen to all of these recordings on a regular basis?  No.  Do I need all of these?  Doubtul.  As I’m going through them, should I evaluate which I can safely give away, so as to free up valuable space in my apartment?  Sounds like a reasonable course of action.

Am I going to do that?  Of course not.

And a large part of the reason I’ll probably keep hoarding my barely-listened-to CDs is that, for a large part of my life as a theater artist, I dabbled in sound design.  “Dabbled” is probably the wrong word – it wasn’t my primary focus, but I took it seriously, did it for quite a few shows, and I like to think I was good at it.  By and large, this was in those long-ago pre-Internet days, when you couldn’t simply call up whatever you might be interested in on You Tube.  No, you needed to maintain a library of music, of sound effects, of whatever weird ambient background murmurings you might conceivably need, for shows that might never come to fruition, so you could consult it at a moment’s notice.  You needed to listen to every genre possible – gangsta rap, barbershop quartet, Balkan jazz, baroque dance suites – while constantly asking yourself what potential circumstances might arise where you’d need that particular piece.  And then you’d need to wait, patiently, for that moment to come.

Well, even if there weren’t a global pandemic raging right now, that moment isn’t going to come again.  The realities of the art form have changed; astonishing advances in technology have rendered my sound design skill set irrelevant.  I don’t need to keep my recordings for any reasons other than personal.  I know this, consciously, and yet I can’t bring myself to change my behavior, or my way of thinking.  These habits, once cultivated, are decidedly hard to get rid of.

Oh, well.  At least my cat is enjoying listening to the music.

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