It’s been awhile since I’ve had a chance to write anything because we’ve had various members of our families in town for the better part of the last month, but something occurred to me this morning while I was desperately trying to wake up to Daily Show reruns on Hulu and multiple cups of coffee: my obsession with ranking things colors the way I purchase music. I bring this up because the local university was having a sale on duplicate and triplicate LPs that wouldn’t have space in their Automated Storage Retrieval System or CREEPY ROBOT THING; $1 per record, take as much as you can. Off I went, with my dear mother along working on bead jewelry, to see what I could come up with.
What I came up with was largely music that I already a shitload of recordings of, though there were a few new-to-me items as well. The list:
- That sorta-famous Barber LP with Thomas Schippers and the NYPO
- The premiere recording of Die tote Stadt
- The Ozawa/LSO version of Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake
- The Boult Mahler 1 on EVerest
- The old Bernstein/NYPO Mahler 7
- The DG Richter Rach 2 with Rowicki conducting
- The Svetlanov Shostakovich 7 on Melodiya
- The Beecham Sibelius 7 (with Pelleas and The Oceanides)
- Two from the Previn/LSO Vaughan Williams cycle (“London” and 5)
- The Martinon/CSO Nielsen “Inextinguishable” (+ Helios)
- The Mysterious Mountain pictured above
I probably have at least 60 recordings of the two Mahler works, I’ve got a dozen or so of ”Leningrad,” a dozen or so of Sibelius 7, a different Richter Rach 2 with a better conductor (Kondrashin), multiple recordings of all the Barber works, a live performance of the Nielsen with the same forces, and copies of the exact same Hovhaness in two other formats.
I wish I had an explanation. I’m an idiot is probably a start, but I can’t help myself.
Take the Mahler 7. I already have several recordings that I would consider favorites that I can go back to over and over: Kondrashin, both MTT’s, Barenboim in spots, Levi, even new Bernstein/NYPO. What the hell is the point of adding another one to the mix? Am I really going to gain some new insight or understanding from Mahler 7 #32? I have no idea. All I know is that when I saw it, I instinctively grabbed it and never once thought twice.
Now, in fairness to myself, I’m playing the Schippers Barber album as I type this and it’s fucking ballsy and awesome, so I win. But for whatever reason I’m trying to find a good reason for why I approach listening and buying music this way. There were plenty of things that would have made a lot more sense from a “discovery” standpoint at that sale: Brahms violin and piano music, late Schubert sonatas, a bunch of Oscar Peterson records that I didn’t (and still don’t) have. Seriously, this School for Scandal Overture is killer, though.
The only remotely reasonable thing I can think of for this pattern is that I know that these works are capable of moving me in some way and I return to the well in the hopes of being moved in a different way. It’s a lot like food in that respect.
There’s a dynamite Mexican restaurant in town called Frida’s (after the artist and former unibrow champion until Anthony Davis came along) who has a menu full of tremendous-sounding food. But of all the times we’ve been there, I don’t think Sandy has ever ordered anything other than the Tacos Placeros, which come with the most ridiculous soupy beans known to man. The quality and deliciousness of the tacos and those God damn beans suggest that the chef knows his shit and that the rest of the menu is likely to be awesome (I’ve tried a couple different things which were, of course, great). But she orders those tacos every time, and who could blame her? They’re the shit.
I’m going to keep telling myself this as I devolve further into a “Jesus, I can’t keep track of these Mahler recordings” state of collecting. There must be a reason for it, right? My fear is that it’s eroding my potential to hear lots of other really top-shelf music (spoiler alert: by definition it is), but I can’t help myself. That’s a lot of pressure on the Honegger and Korngold items on that list.
Someone help me!