If you have an awful lot of music, the question inevitably arises, ‘How should I file it?’ The debate has been raging forever, or at least since Thomas Edison kicked off music collecting. In fact these pages have recently seen some lively Commentary.
That’s file as in ‘put a physical object somewhere where you stand a better-than-even chance of locating it when you want to’, not file as in a bunch of 1s and 0s masquerading as something real. Neither is it the tool baked into a cake to assist your incarcerated mate make like the AC/DC song. Or the shuffling queue for the toilets at a three-day festival. Or anything to do with fingernails.
Now I’ve always tended towards the ‘Complacent Patronising Arsehole’ end of the spectrum in this debate. ‘Oh, pure alphabetical’ I drawl, sipping a hideous cocktail and readjusting my cravat. But that’s simply not true and if there was any such thing as karma, the tiny paper umbrella adorning my drink would lodge in my lying nostril as the neck scarf laid some strangulatory justice upon my windpipe.
It’s often the case, isn’t it, that we perceive ourselves in terms of our aspirations and intentions and others in terms of their actual behaviour? Makes for a comfortable life on the high moral ground. I certainly enjoy the air up there, being toasted by my CPA colleagues.
But recently, down on my knees ferreting amongst the home-burned compilation CD-Rs for something to soundtrack a trip to the coast, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realised there might well be a considerable gap between my concept of intelligent design and the actual system evolving in the Vinyl Connection music room. Doubts even surfaced as to whether the word ‘system’ was applicable. So in the interests of honesty and perhaps even improved emotional well-being I will now attempt an unprecedented feat: to describe the VC arrangement as it actually is.
- Vinyl LPs and Compact Discs are filed separately, each A—Z.
- Where there are multiple titles by the same artist, these are filed chronologically.
- Unheard Music A plastic crate sits atop one set of shelves, holding those albums as yet to receive the mandatory two listens prior to filing. Some have been sitting there a couple of years, begging the question: if it’s that uninteresting, why the hell is it still there? But that’s a topic for another post (and another Valium). Newish CDs are in a shelf in the family room. There is no satisfactory explanation for this other than space concerns.
- Current Listening Albums on the current playlist are in a small rack next to the turntable. Sometimes LPs migrate between the crate and the rack several times. They never tell me why.
- Singles None. They are not in the database, ergo ‘Computer says, “No!”’. Except there are about forty or fifty in a box in the wardrobe and a number inserted into the plastic cover of their parent LP. Yet for filing purposes they don’t exist. CD singles are filed with the CDs of course, trailing after the parent album like ducklings behind mum.
- Jazz CDs This is the biggest exception by far; hundreds of discs on their own shelves. I find when I want jazz it is easier to have them grouped together. Then why not extract the jazz vinyl too? Dunno. And why no other genre sections? Electronic, Blues, Gamelan Orchestras. I guess because jazz is the largest group and too many exceptions would (ahem) fragment the library. Crikey, stop asking these awkward questions, would you?
- Boxed Sets Vinyl boxes are easy. The wide cardboard containers slot into the record shelves perfectly and add a satisfying sense of solidarity to the particular row they grace. As VC uses record covers on all LPs, the naked boxed sets stand out with pleasing clarity in a blurry plastic-shrouded world. But when it comes to CD sets, it’s an altogether different situation. Back in the day, when CDs were first making inroads into the vinyl market, companies came up with the comforting idea of multi-CD sets in 12” LP sized boxes that could sit alongside your records. But as the digital medium took over, the twelve-inch square packaging was no longer attractive and companies went for a variety of CD-depth styles… many of which have specialist storage needs. Then there are the unique one-offs… About now, I’m regretting this project.
- Soundtracks Another curly one. They live in a section in the A—Z where the artist known as Soundtrack would reside. Can you have exceptions to exceptions? Exception2 perhaps? When an artist has multiple other albums, I tend to put the film work with their non-soundtrack releases, examples being Tangerine Dream and Rick Wakeman. Oh, and the albums within the Soundtrack section are filed by film title, not artist (mainly because many have multiple artists).
- Various Artists Like Soundtracks, these used to be grouped together at VARI in the alphabetical section. But a while back I moved all compilations (except Soundtracks) to the end of the A—Z. There was probably a very good reason at the time, but it somehow escapes me now. Compilations are filed by album title (obviously) within their section, with a little module tacked on the end for those ubiquitous TV advertised compilations with names like Ripper!, Scorcher! and Blasphemer!
- Home-made Compilations Until someone comes up with a 3-D printer capable of making records, this is a CD-only category. And not really a current one, either. But who can chuck out those lovingly compiled discs with their endlessly re-adjusted running orders and bespoke cover designs? Of course, there are comps made oneself, and those received, but we’ll just skip over that for now.
- Christmas Music Like Soundtracks, except Santa’s section lies between The Chills and Suzanne Ciani. Within ‘Christmas’, albums are alphabetical by artist, of course. A mate used to issue an annual Christmas CD compiled from his extensive Op Shop collection. There are a number of these, but no question that they belong in ‘Christmas’ rather than ‘Home-made Compilations’, right? And being ‘Various Artists’ they are at the end of Christmas. Obviously.
- Comedy See Soundtracks. Is this becoming a joke?
- Moog LPs I started this a few years back when I was collecting those anonymous Moog albums that rarely tell you the performer’s name. ‘Why not file them under Moog?’ I thought. So I did. As most of these albums are not terribly interesting, the whole lot could be disposed of resulting in one less alphabetical anomaly. Perhaps a New Year’s resolution for next year. Or sometime.
- Western Composed Music (aka ‘Classical’) Having this as a separate section makes some sense. In the room I like to call the Vinyl Connection Library, both LPs and discs have alpha-sorted shelves. But here’s another one that has exceptions on its exceptions. The CDs are alphabetic by composer (how most normal people do it). But because I’ve been accumulating some composed 20th Century music on vinyl and only have a sprinkling (fifty, maybe?) of ‘classical’ records (including early, baroque, romantic, etcetera), I’ve filed these albums chronologically. This does not work very well at all, there being two major problems. Firstly, it requires my remembering the year of composition, an increasingly challenging task as neurones die off faster than Boomer rock stars. Secondly, albums often have two composers represented, one side being allocated to each. Where to put them? When in doubt I use what it says on the spine of the record, but the whole thing is deeply unsatisfactory and causes anxiety. The angst is often quelled by red wine, an approach not entirely aligned with neurone retention.
- Spoken Word Somewhere down at carpet crawler level. I don’t visit every often.
- Cassettes Oh, for fuck’s sake.