Thursday 6 November 2014


I began my downsizing yesterday by unloading some vinyl to my friend, the guitarist Andy Wiersma, at Harold Moore's. Among the records was Elliott Carter's Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello and Harpsichord with the intellectual Nonesuch cover. I used to go to sleep listening to it in college, and sometimes stare at the artwork while under the influence.

There were the early 70s ECM records which played on the turntable which sat on the amp which sat on one speaker on the floor of the closet, as I wrote my McGill masters thesis in the tiny flat on Avenue Lorne I shared with Theresa. I wrote poems based on the tunes I was hearing: one of the joys of my later life was meeting Eberhard Weber and Jan Garbarek, and sharing some of those poems with them.

These were records I'd brought with me, from Montreal back to Connecticut, and then to Britain when I moved to London in 1977. There was also some Ives, from the same time, and some lovely Savoy jazz collections I'd picked up early in my stay in this country. It's a cliche to call it the background music of a life; it was part of the foreground of my life, a palpable part of it.

I wasn't a fanatic, nor an anorak. Oddly, I learned this week that one of my teammates on the freshman football team at Wesleyan, Skip Wood, had passed away. I still have the first Earth Opera album which I bought from Skip, who had the biggest record collection I'd ever seen, probably in 1969. I know this because the sleeve boasts the words 'Skip Wood Record' and a control number, written in large letters with a magic marker. It saddens me to think that record too will be sold off soon; my only link to Skip will be gone.

I felt a great sense of loss, of time that will never be recovered, and the pressures of change brought on by circumstance, not time. Even though I don't have a turntable, and haven't listened to the vinyl in years, when I sorted through them, taking them from the wine carton in the attic, holding them and reading the liner notes, I felt a warmth emanating from them. I could hear and see the passage of more than four decades of time. And while I still listen to the same music on CD, I don't feel that warmth. I don't hold the cases and feel as if they're alive the way record albums were. Listening to a CD is more like a business transaction than a communing ritual. The feel and look and sound of those records was the first thing I thought of when I woke this morning. I felt a great sense of loss. Goodbye old friends.


rogueactuary said...

111I was buying CDs years before I had a CD player and computer. The problem is that once there is a sentimental value attached to something it is best archived or disposed before the sentimental value kicks in. I am fortunate that with the few friends I have there is no musical connection to them. As for my vinyl most of it is stashed away in an attic probably rotting at my parents. Some of it I have managed to keep with me but most is as good as lost. In any case good memories of good people are better than any music in the long run. Finally, as you know priorities mean downsizing has to happen and sacrifices will be made! At least the vinyl seems to have got a good home rather than the bin or a charity shop for subsequnet auction

Anonymous said...

We have all kinds of love for our old vinyl, we even a special new name for it. They were just records back in the day. But none of us have any love at all for our old cassette tapes, maybe some for the mix-tapes we used to make. And, admit it, you were smiling when you tossed your 8-track tapes into the rubbish. Everyone hated 8-track.