History is a Drunken Sailor

What we recall from history rarely takes the form of a timeline, no matter how popular that notion is. Rather we are all more like walking containers of piles of unsorted photographs as snapshots of memories connected by many associations that we (our minds) have constructed.

This at least is how I have always thought of my recordings. Each one (both released and unreleased) is very much a snapshot in time of what I was writing, where and how I was living and often who I was playing music alongside with at that time. The recordings are then to me much more time capsules and life outtakes if you will in their own right.

This is not much different from the way we all recall history. It is tied by associations in little bundles to all kinds of faces and situations that are scattered around in the history containers we call minds. No two filing and retrieval systems are quite the same, therefore the story changes at each telling and re-telling.

When the songs get arranged for a CD or playlist of any kind, they are in fact telling a story by the author and producer. Creating an album in this regard is then very much the same process regardless of whether that album is one of digital/paper photos or of songs. The videos I started creating since moving to Hawaii also go through this process but use multiple artistic media sources, usually my still photographs and my music.

Time here becomes irrelevant, as it yields to the story being told, not the other way around.

Most of us were or are lucky enough to have vinyl LP’s (records — as in filed info?) as part of our experience. With records and albums, the essential message of the musical recording was always tied to the album cover itself. Double albums were more than twice as powerful since the inside cover was suddenly a landscape layout that could be and often was used to expand the experience.

These album covers were not iconic, they were physical and tactile. They contained photos, lyrics and other precious info to gaze into over and over again while listening to the recording. Sometimes they contained a poster to extract and put up on the wall. It was truly ritualistic and quite beautiful when I think about it. Even the storage of the albums was significant as they required quite a designated space as well as climate control issues separate from everything else. The arrangement and presentation of the music, as physical albums in a room, were a special part of each collector’s personal and usually shared musical experience. It all had a signature feel to it. How were the albums maintained and organized or disorganized? How many were there? What genres did they cover (anyone could see at a glance through the stacks)? Where we’re they located (i.e., what priority status did they get)?

All of this got iconized by degrees as we drifted away from LP’s in the early 80’s to CD’s and then drifted away from CD’s in the early millennium to iTunes and beyond. Now our collections are invisible to us. The containers don’t even exist. There is total abstraction between the music and the artist for the listener. The artist has essentially disappeared from the scene. There is no personalized connection between the media (that used to be an aged record cover with say a distinct coffee cup ring stain on it from that day in late summer when so and so sat down to listen to it or a wine ring stain from that party where so and so was moving to Copenhagen…) and the listener. Nor are there any more messages given by the artist and producer to the listener as something to physically grasp and review over and over while contemplating the recording. The listener’s focus inherent in that contemplation may not exist now either. It was a listening tool that has been removed. It is all abstract now. It exists in a cloud as they say…