Thursday, January 26, 2012

Whither the Music Collector?

Music Man Murray (trailer) from Richard Parks on Vimeo.

A recent post by C. P. Heiser on The Los Angeles Review of Books blog featured Murray Gershenz, a collector seeking to sell his nearly half-million rare records. He is also the subject of a new documentary by Richard Parks, "Music Man Murray." The post and the film both have good insights about the culture of collecting, something that I've talked a bit about before on this blog, particularly as it relates to fandom. Clearly Gershenz represents a fan practice on the decline, or at least, experiencing a profound shift in meaning and definition. As Heiser writes: "...Outside, the building with his name on its façade appears to be shrinking, just as music, too, has shrunk. These days, music lives inside a few scattered bits of data, the fetishized object becoming, at least for the masses, not so much the music as the little hand-held device upon which it plays."

Whither the music collector? What issues would arise if we tried to write a new version of Walter Benjamin's "Unpacking My Library" in the age of digitization and streaming? Is it time for a "Sorting My Playlist?"


  1. I dunno though, I think records are that point where they are becoming cool again. I was super sad to hear that my Dad had sold his collection when I visited over the holidays. That might be only for the younger generation, because they're only novel for us.

    Although my brother thinks CDs are gonna make a comeback soon...

  2. Definitely a generational gap going on, Ian, you're right. I'll bet broadcast television will come back someday, too! Still, I think, while records might have come back into use, during their absence (or decline) much changed. So even older established practices of record collecting will have different meanings now--emphasizing materiality, say, in ways it may not have been emphasized before. How do we collect and value collecting in an age of streaming and clouds, or, perhaps--taking into account the new vogue for older forms--in an age of astonishingly diverse media?