Almost one week ago today,it was suggested to me by my mother of all people that I re-organize and alphabetize my CD collection into a cleaner and more accessible order. It was a very awkward and emotional experience to be sure. Years of rummaging through used CD’s of all sorts and price ranges have given me to realize that my approach has always been more like that of an outdoor workshop than most music collectors. It has apparently been set up close to a process of organized chaos. The CD’s appeared out of order but, for the most part I could locate them. Of course instead of organizing the CD’s piecemeal and gradually as I had been,it was suggested I do every single one of them all at once. This has resulted in a week long process that has bought to mind an important musical discovery. Its actually something I’ve touched on many times during previous articles. However it was my decision to alphabetize the CD’s by genre as well as letter that really bought this discovery home-literally and figuratively.
By spreading out the CD’s in terms of genre, I personally noticed how difficult it was to use this concept as a means for organizing-especially for a musically open minded person as myself. Here are some examples of the decisions that I had to contend with. Though usually categorized in the pop/rock section of a record store the music of Hall & Oates,Phil Collins,Van Morrison and Sheena Easton ended up being being placed under the soul/R&B/funk area of the collection. The reason being was because of my lack of appreciation for the sometimes rather explicit racial divisions in music. All of the artists I mentioned are essentially soul/R&B/funk artists. And most people will admit the truth know that they are categorized under pop/rock in stores is because of them being white. And further more the post Elvis linkage of rock n roll being “white music” somehow. To end the detestable division of race placed upon the music industry is the exception of Teena Marie-a white artist with the unique circumstance of being completely accepted by the R&B/soul/funk community. So even by me she was categorized accordingly.
The artists I had the hardest times with were people such as Ben Sidran,Michael Franks,Paul Hardcastle,Steely Dan and Miles Davis. Most of their music actually doesn’t have a label at all ,so I decided to place them in jazz category in favor of their base musical values. For the sake of argument I decided to create an alternative category for musicians/bands who simply had no remote chance of being labeled as anything. This had nothing to do with the 90’s era faux labeling of “grunge-lite” music under that same term. Bands normally categorized under rock and/or new wave such as Duran Duran,New Order,U2 and Lenny Kravitz. To some my most controversial decision was one I made from the outset: to mix acoustic jazz with fusion styles. I don’t see any significant difference in their base flavors-even with the differences in instrumentation and was never someone who had much interest in debating anyone that differs in that opinion,frankly. I mixed dance and electronica together-not really seeing how it was appropriate to separate Madonna from Daft Punk as again their music represents only variations on a theme.
First off this entire affair has given me to understand the frustrations people in record stores must have in filing arrivals, new and used, where they’re supposed to be. Most importantly it was a potent reminder of what I already knew well beforehand. It generally isn’t the sound of the music itself that is a major causal factor in it’s categorization. More often it is more mediacentric demographics such as age,gender,race and often the nature of the instruments being played on the record itself. As I have already written about how different people respond to music on this blog before, I will only say that this physically exhausting organizational process bought out just how differently I personally view music than many other people. No egoism intended here, but being homeschooled and experiencing an adolescence free of media and peer pressure have made me one of those people who understand music solely on its own merits-rather on how I’d be told to understand it in more public settings. The general point to all of this is actually in the form of a question,which I’ll end this posting with: is it really the sound of music that really effects our views of it? Or is it mostly our ego structures?