I was reading The Drumset Owner's Manual: A Heavily Illustrated Guide to Selecting, Setting Up and Maintaining All Components of the Acoustic Drumset, by Ronald Vaughan. Riveting stuff, obviously. But having recently become obsessed with the selection of music books at Wellington Public Library, I am on something of a quest to read every music book that building (temporarily) houses - well, at least every one that I haven't already read.
It's part of the new budget obviously, rather than simply buying every book I want to one day read. It helps in saving space at home too.
But the reason I mention The Drumset Owner's Manual is the opening line - the reason for the author writing the book. He says "if you buy an acoustic drumset (or any component of it), there is usually no owner's manual". And so that was his motivation, that was his mission: to write an owner's manual for drum enthusiasts. I play the drums - from time to time - and I finished the book. It was useful, I could see the point of it. I picked up one or two tips.
But that opening line got me thinking that there aren't really owner's manuals for stereos, for music collections. There are instructions for setting up the components, there is a warranty perhaps. There are some simple cleaning and care instructions too - quite likely. And your LPs, tapes and CDs might have some cleaning/storage instructions.
But what are your rules for your music collection? It's your collection, so you make the rules, right? What would be in your owner's manual?
The reason I ask this is that I've had friends visit who seem to worry about touching any of the music. We have a lot of records in the den - it is essentially a music-listening room with couches, bookshelves, CD rack, crates of LPs and a stereo. No television. But I like to think that my music collection is there for anyone and everyone. If people want to thumb through the records and help themselves, or make a request at least - that's fair game. That is to be encouraged. I think of it now as more of a library than a collection.
I will definitely put on music at most opportunities, but I'm not trying to impress anyone, or challenge anyone. I'm not trying to dictate - to be the Stereo Nazi. I think I'm just more acutely aware of the small holes of silence raining through when the music is (temporarily) over. By that I mean that since I'm the one putting the record on or pressing play on the iPod I know how long the playlist will go on for, or when it's time to change sides or play something else. And I'm so used to having music on - both in needing to listen to music, in wanting to listen to music (and the actual work-like need to, in terms of getting through the review copies that arrive; keeping up).
But there aren't really any rules for playing music or listening to music in my house.
Soon, hopefully next year, I'll have two turntables set up side by side with a mixer, meaning anyone who visits can cue up the next record, jump in at any point and play what they want, dictate the flow. Currently we have the turntables but don't quite have the space allocated to set this up. It might require spousal sign-off also. But it's something I'm pretty keen to make happen.
And that's because I reckon a record collection is to be shared. I've spent thousands of dollars collecting records. And where I've exchanged review-CDs for records I can also say that I have spent thousands of hours listening to utterly horrendous music by people with friends and family who have been far too kind and encouraging - and my prize for doing that dirty work is being able to slowly build up a collection of the records I do want to listen to.
We have, increasingly, friends with small children. We have a child of our own. So maybe some record-player rules will be implemented one day - but I'm pretty happy with the open policy for now.
Oscar is six months old now - and for the past couple of months we have been making a record part of bathtime. We have a bit of a boogie with him beforehand, mum and dad both involved, usually. Oscar cracking up, cackling at our appalling dancing. We take turns holding him and we've been playing Elvis Presley, Elvis Costello, Young MC, Smashing Pumpkins, Tour of Duty II soundtrack, Rocket Juice & The Moon, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Tricky, Massive Attack, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, Gene Clark and whatever happens to be near the stereo.
He'll be able to play whatever he wants one day - with the only rule I can see (for now) being about the handling of LPs and the record-player. Beyond that, it's all stuff that can be replaced, can be fixed or repurchased.
I only really have one rule so far: the sealed LPs stay sealed unless I open them or unless I'm around to see someone open them. That's all. Apart from that - music should be shared. And LPs can be loaned, they can be trashed with time - and then replaced.
About five or six years ago I was visiting extended family in Christchurch. I was invited around for a Sunday meal and the head of the family was in a flap about what music to put on. "I feel like I have a famous author in the house and there's just some trashy magazines lying about instead of fine literature." He was, in part, joking but there seemed to be some real pressure to the situation, some stress that he was feeling as he wondered whether it would be acceptable to play Norah Jones' debut or David Gray's White Ladder without me judging him and his collection. All the while I was standing right behind him, probably judging him and his collection.
He should not have worried. My stereo plays plenty of abysmal albums - including many of the things I love most in life. And of course all of the horrific albums that have been forced on me too. A music collection doesn't need an owner's manual at all. Right? Or do you have rules? Do you have a private collection? Do you have music that other people are not allowed to touch? Are you the one that operates the stereo? Or is it open-house policy for you?
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