As the year 2014 marks the eclipse of compact disc sales by MP3s (not to mention ‘pirated’ downloads), physical audio media are increasingly conspicuous as fetish objects. Why do many of us still need to possess music as a material object?
The following videos, largely found via a YouTube search for ‘my cd collection’, depict large scale cataloging and sharing of individuals’ compact disc collections. Who is their audience? Are these collections of objects a way to connect with others, or are they a surrogate for them? What is revealed in the details of these stockpiled cultural commodities?
This act of collecting is not about listening, as few of these videos contain the playback of music. Evan Eisenberg confesses in the Recording Angel, “When a ten-dollar bill leaves my right hand and a bagged record enters my left, it is the climax. The shudder and ring of the register is the true music; later I will play the record, but that will be redundant. My money has already heard it.”1
Even without a physical object, we can see this type of fetishism at work with digital media. A similar YouTube search for ‘my iTunes collection’ brings up a notable number of videos featuring recorded screens of “Album View” in iTunes.
Kenneth Goldsmith states:
I’ve got more music on my drives than I’ll ever be able to listen to in the next ten lifetimes. As a matter of fact, records that I’ve been craving for years (such as the complete recordings of Jean Cocteau, which we just posted on Ubu) are languishing unlistened-to. I’ll never get to them either, because I’m more interested in the hunt than I am in the prey. The minute I get something, I just crave more. And so something has really changed – and I think this is the real epiphany: the ways in which culture is distributed have become profoundly more intriguing than the cultural artifact itself. What we’ve experienced is an inversion of consumption, one in which we’ve come to prefer the acts of acquisition over that which we are acquiring, the bottles over the wine.2
Note that many of the clips below are only single parts of multi-part series. Many of our documenters are creating their own online video collections.
1 Eisenberg, Evan, The Recording Angel (McGraw-Hill, 1987), 24-25
2 Goldsmith, Kenneth, “Epiphany No 4: As a result, just like you, I stopped buying music”, The Wire (#327, May 2011)
Here’s a similar video for a cassette collection:
There are even 8-track collections:
Here’s a 30 minute tour of an MP3 collection:
Woody Sullender is a co-editor of Ear │ Wave │ Event.