Lately in the mornings I've been listening to one or two LPs from the set of classical music I had as a kid, the Funk and Wagnall's Family Library of Great Music, while reading the accompanying 12-page booklets, which I have managed to save more or less intact over the course of some 30 years and so many moves. This massive brick of liner notes, 264 broadside pages, was important to me mostly as an artefact of my early inspirations, rather than serving as any kind of reference material. Consequently I kept it amongst my memorabilia and until today I've never read any of it since those early days.
The thing that strikes me most as I read it now, is that this was an incredible education to be had, simply for the reading. I know I read each of these booklets enough times that I had them mostly by heart, because why else would I be already so familiar with, the life story of, say, Johannes Brahms, as I read it again this morning? Much like the encyclopedia we had laying around which I spent hours on end reading as a kid, these LPs and liner notes gave me quite an education, in this case, a thorough introduction to the main stream of 18th- and 19th-century European art music, with a look back at Bach and Handel. I'm so grateful we had these things around the house.
It's also interesting to read it now as a much older and better-educated person, and see the degree to which I absorbed 19th-century Romanticism from reading this stuff, which was kind of the unspoken intellectual/philosophical viewpoint underlying most of this written material. The classical world suffered from a 75-year-long hangover of those attitudes, which perhaps was inevitable given how inaccessible or paltry most of the art music of the 20th century was until mid-century. Worship of the past is natural when the present offers nothing remotely close. And that's the mindset these authors were schooled in, as they were likely about my age in the 1970s when these notes were written. There are attempts from time to time at writing something a bit more straight, but breathless veneration is generally the tone.
Anyway this process has definitely been making me want to continue on that album-based memoir I started working on... something about this whole set would make for a great chapter.
I haven't been writing much because I have booked studio time for the day after tomorrow, a 3-hour session in the morning, and I've been trying to stay focused on preparing for that session, getting ready at least 5 and as many as 10 to try out. I've picked some easy ones, tunes I've been doing for years or which are more about energy than finesse, and some more challenging ones that'll probably take up most of the session. My idea right now is to record live to tape: guitar and vocals/harmonica simultaneously for the basic tracks. Although if that doesn't go well I will do the guitar parts separately and overdub vocals. I've rethought and reworked a lot of my guitar arrangements -- in many cases, making actual arrangements where before I just had strumming patterns, not that interesting -- and in one case, I completely rewrote a song from a 2012 demo and made it a million times better.
I also wanted to put something here about listening to my digital music collection. Now that I've just about reached the end of my first listen to my vinyl collection -- all I have left is the rest of that Funk and Wagnalls set and a couple LPs I bought at a store the other day -- and I still have way more CDs and cassettes than I can imagine getting through in any reasonable amount of time, I've decided to start listening to my digital music collection in much the same manner as I've been listening through the physical stuff, with an eye towards deleting things, only keeping the titles I truly enjoy and want to hear again.
To start with, I'm planning to dump all the music I have into one big pile, that is, a folder named something like Pile-O-Tunes. I've already started that folder with the contents of the iTunes library that I've been building on this laptop for the past 6 years. Probably that pile will ultimately live on an external hard drive I have. I've been picking one title at a time out of that pile to spin, and I add to a folder labeled Collection. If I like it, I'll keep it there. If I don't care for it, I'll delete the tracks without hesitation.
The reason I have so much stuff is that years ago I got into the habit of retaining everything I bought or otherwise obtained, keeping lots of stuff I wasn't that interested in just for reference purposes, and I did certainly use that huge archive on a regular basis. But now that we are in an age where we can hear any major release that we want to pretty much whenever we want, there's no reason to keep recordings around that I'm not much into. I pretty much haven't dipped into the archive since streaming became a legal thing. I'll probably still retain anything that I can't find on Apple Music or YouTube in a reference pile.
Next to wrapping up my vinyl collection, the other prompt for this change was the latest update to iTunes, which finally crossed the line for me. I don't feel like going into the details at this late date, after so many years of disappointing changes and updates. Suffice to say, I've seen this day coming for years, and here it is, I no longer want to use the app to listen to the music I own. I took my old library and put it in another directory on the hard drive, and started a fresh library which I may or may not connect to Apple Music at some point. (Probably not.) So as far as music goes, iTunes will mostly be an app I use to rip CDs.
What I am using instead, after much research and trying out several alternatives, is a $20 app called Swinsian. (https://swinsian.com/) Three or four days into the trial, I've got very few complaints. It's the one app that does the primary things I want, which are to: 1) display album art in a grid view, 2) have a queue that I can easily add tracks or albums to, 3) play FLAC files so I can finally delete all my transcodes of all my FLACs, and 3) get out of the fucking way and let me enjoy the music I've paid for. It does these things perfectly well. The other thing I really care about is that my actual music files stay untouched and accessible, easily played by any media application. The app doesn't organize them for me or hide them -- it leaves them in the file structure that I will be creating as I listen through all this stuff.
All right, that's enough for now. I'm gonna be hanging out with my bandmates today. I don't foresee that we're really gonna do anything productive at all until after the drummer gets back from his honeymoon, in November, and I'm all good with that. So today will probably be pretty casual and fun.