Monday, December 11, 2006

On any music-oriented discussion site I've ever seen, the subject of LP and/or CD filing emerges at least annually and is greeted with the appropriate amount of seriousness, which is to say: life and death.

Back since the days when my LP collection occupied about two linear feet of bookcase space, I've always used the same system, the onlu one that makes any sense at all and the one that, upon my attaining kingship of the world, will be enforced by dint of law: Alpha/Chrono. Which is to say, alphabetically by Last Name or Group Name and chronologically within that person/group. Absolutely no distinguishing between "genres". Brahms sandwiched between Bobby Bradford and Glenn Branca. Caetano Veloso abuts Nikos Veliotis and Matthijs Vermeulen. Back when the notion of a "record store" (kids may wish to google on the concept) was something to dream about, I loved the idea of a shop set up in just such a fashion. "Where would I find music from Mozambique?" "Over there, between Don Moye and Mozart."

The above exchange touches on one of the difficulties encountered using this system. Where does one file field recordings where no individual musicians are listed? Well, if forced to do so, under the country of origin. How about split recordings, often found in classical music? I usually opt for the composer most prominently featured though, if it's the case that I bought the disc due to the presence of a shorter included work, I may well file it under that name. Minor matters!

The benefits, aside from ease of locating a given release, are significant. I've long held to the practice of "playing through" my collection. That is, when there's nothing pressing upon me to listen to (like stuff I'm supposed to be reviewing), I'll trip alphabetically through my stock, happening on albums I might never get back to otherwise. If you own a decent number of records by a given individual/group, the chrono set-up affords a nice walkthrough of their history. If one's collection is sufficently catholic, you also get excellently jarring back to back listens as indicated above. Why people file otherwise escapes me!


With LPs there was virtually no variation in size, apart from width to accommodate multiple albums. I assume somewhere along the line, this or that person released something in outsized packaging (examples?) but I don't remember seeing such and nothing of the sort made it into my little grubbies. The LPs all fit nicely into their compartment. btw, back around 1980, my great friend Marc, a woodworker by trade, and I devised and constructed a piece of furniture specifically designed for LP storage. Eight feet long, with four 13" high storage areas, it's a wonderfully functional piece, capable of holding about 800 LPs. I have about 1,000. Placed in a corner of the room, the additional couple hundred records can be leaned into the corner, the remaining surface serving as a platform for the receiver/amp and turntable.

CD's, on the other hand, lend themselves to a wide variation in size and shape. My basic storage units are simple, wooden "crates" designed for CDs and taking up as little space as possible. I have (by necessity, as I purchased them over time) several kinds but they're fairly similar, sometimes dangerously stackable. My CDs currently number over 1,800 and new space is always required, so they've oozed into adjacent bookshelves and the like. However, the storage units generally are fit to house standard sized cases. Anything much larger needs its own area and I have a whole bunch that are much, much larger (also about 25-30 3" discs in tiny, cute packages, easily arrayed, thus far, in front of their normally sized cousins on a bookshelf). The large packages are set on top of a couple of the storage cases, alpha order of course, their irregular heights creating two small cityscapes. Conveniently, a couple of boxed sets (AMPLIFY and the IMJ wooden box) serve as "bookends" for one, a couple of glasses filled with small stones for the other. One of the main "offenders" in the oversized department is a wonderful label out of Berlin called absinth, run by Marcus Leibig.

Most of the twelve releases so far on absinth come enclosed in 7" sleeves, hand-stitched with individually decorated covers, all quite attractive. Most all very good music as well, including the latest by Mark Wastell, "Amoungst English Men" (although this last opinion isn't universally held--see Robert Kirkpatrick's well-argued point of view here). In any case, when browsing through my collection for this or that reason, I often will initially forget about these outliers, as I have yet again. I reviewed this one at Bagatellen in April 'o5 here so won't go through it again. Suffice it to say that anyone reading this should do themselves a favor and pick up an absinth disc. Hard to go far wrong.


Two arrived yesterday from Azul Discografica, on each by Starving Weirdos and Howlin' Magic.

*sigh* these kids today and their wacky names......


Richard Pinnell said...

I actually chose to release Cathnor discs in packaging just too large for standard CD shelves just to annoy people like you Brian...! ;)

I'll also probably wind you up by explaining how I lay out my CD shelves. They are organised into a mixture of geographical and label order believe it or not. Where there is a label that releases all of its discs in similar size and shape packaging, such as Erstwhile, Cut or l'innomable, and I have a significant number of discs on that label I tend to file them together. All of the rest will be filed geographically, with Tokyo all in one place, Berlin in another etc...

I think this tendency of mine stems from two things. Firstly I have an artistic sensibility that likes to see things look good irrelevant of their practicality (see Cathnor) but also because I work in retail, and I spend quite a bit of time training people on how to put things on shelves to so that they are pleasing on the eye, rather than easy to find!

Brian Olewnick said...

You're a sick individual, Pinnell.

When you say "geographically", do you mean where the disc was recorded, where the label originates or the place of origin of the musicians? (I'm listening, at the moment, to Mattin's "Proletarian of Noise"; Would this go under Berlin, Japan or Andorra? I'm tempted to put it under "painful noise" right now--not necessarily a bad thing, of course.)

Geographically. What an odd idea!

I break my book filing, fwiw, into fiction and non-fiction (alpha/chron within each, bien sur), though I've had serious misgivings about that on more than one occasion.

Anonymous said...

My stacks of CDs would probably drive both of you guys OCD into overdrive ;)

But as disorganized as it is I do have a bit of a system. I sort by genre and then more or less randomly within those. But like Richard I do have a few stacks by label. All my IMJ, Erstwhile and Matchless have their own stacks. But (and this outta explode some heads) I'll throw in related things onto these as well. For instance Squire is sitting on top of the "Matchless" stack and The International Nothing is with the IMJs.

I pretty much haven't bought shelving is the main reason for this, but when I do my sorting will probably remain like this. I like to sort by genre, I do this for my books as well (which are better shelved, but I need more of them as well).

Speaking of aesthetic organization did you guys see the pictures from that bookstore that let an artist organize their books by color? Looked pretty sweet.

Anonymous said...

Why did that drop the rest of my name there?

Brian Olewnick said...

Robert (or "r" as he's cryptically known),

Hadn't heard about that bookstore (Adobe in SF) but was able to find a few pics. Very cool.

Richard Pinnell said...

I arrange geographically by artist name, so Mattin would go under 'Other Europe' as the Basque country doesn't contain that many other artists.

To pre-empt your next question, where would I put say, the duo of Mattin and Junko, seeing as one of the musicians comes from Europe and the other Japan?

Well in the bin of course :D

Brian Olewnick said...

I heard the Luxembourg eai scene is waiting to explode so you might want to free up some space...

Maybe I could rearrange my American stuff with US State of Origin as the determining factor.

Alastair said...

It makes sense to have the International Nothing CD with the IMJs seeing as it's on Suzuki-san's new label.

I used to have a section I called "no discernable tunes". Of course, this is now my main section..