Transitory

Tonight I tossed another hundred or so older issues of music magazines into the recycling bin. I’ve kept my complete collection of Keyboard, strictly for sentimental reasons, but what’s the point of boxing up and carrying around old issues of Electronic MusicianEQ, MixSound On Sound, or Drum? I’m never going to read them, and neither is anybody else.

The transitory nature of magazine writing is sad, not least because I wrote a lot of the features in those old magazines myself. Well, not in EQ or Sound On Sound. But a lot in EM, and a few in Mix and Drum. I also chucked my complete collection of Music & Computers, a short-lived magazine for which I wrote a column.

Music technology magazines tend to publish a lot of product reviews, and there’s very little that’s more pathetic or useless than a ten-year-old product review. But even the artist profiles and interviews tend to be awfully superficial. Reviews of out-of-print CDs? How-to articles with details on technology that’s long gone? Into the recycling bin with you.

Having made a career of writing for music magazines, I’m now reflecting that almost nothing of any importance was ever published in any of them.

And that’s just one track in today’s remix of “Dust in the Wind.” I have an enormous trove of family photos going back more than 75 years. Should I go through them and mount them in photo albums? I have no children. Whatever I do with the photos, when I’m gone they’ll go straight into the landfill.

In the late 1970s, for reasons that are now difficult to recapture, I was interested in Tarot cards. I own a dozen very attractive Tarot decks, which have been gathering dust in a drawer for 30 years. They’re much too nice to throw away, but the likelihood that I’ll ever look at them again is rather small. I have some cool board games that I’ll never play. I have a balance-type scale and a set of small weights, suitable for weighing gold samples; I inherited it from my grandfather, along with an Army rifle of a rather common type that was manufactured in the late 1890s for use in the Spanish-American war.

I have stacks of piano music, far more than I’ll ever have time to learn. I have six boxes of LPs, including some vintage albums from the Sixties — Cream, Jefferson Airplane, the Who. I do have a turntable, but will I ever listen to any of this music again? I have half a dozen small, finely carved ivory figurines that my mother bought in the 1940s. They might be valuable, and they’re certainly distinctive — one is of Ganesh, another is a Chinese fisherman, a third is of a young, bare-breasted woman playing the flute — but other than setting them on a shelf to gather dust, what will I do with them?

I have a drawer full of ten-year-old soundware CD-ROMs. Even if we assume the samples themselves are still stylistically relevant, if I give the discs to a young musician who is into sampling, she can’t legally use any of the samples, because she won’t have a license.

Things acquire emotional resonances. To let go of them would be to suffer loss. But their accumulated weight is almost too much to bear. Especially when you’re packing to move, but packing just draws attention to what’s already there.

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2 Responses to Transitory

  1. Yonatan says:

    For you, a person who has lived to experience that expired technology, reading about it may not be so interesting.
    But for other people who only heard about it, it may have more information to convey.

    Also, I think one should distinguish between stuff like technology to more personal objects such as old family photos.

  2. Leh173 says:

    Hi Jim, I take your point about old mags, but some are worth keeping and others aren’t. I’m about to sell off a bunch of mine, but Keyboard always remains, due to the musical content, interview and, shock horror, old gear reviews and how to’s! In fact I recently bought an old Roland D-70, a synth I used a lot when starting out with music but never owned, and your August 1990 review of it was more helpful than it’s manual in some ways. It was also the first issue of Keyboard I bought! So it’s never going. BTW I always liked your reviews, a little more critical in the right way that some of the more generous review gear gets these days which sometimes makes me wonder if the reviewer put the thing they are reviewing through it’s paces at all. Stay well.

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