Every day I’m faced with a daunting task—choosing music.
In the old days, I used to stand and squat in front of a massive, turning tower that housed my collection of CD’s–film scores, showtunes, pop, jazz, classical. Easily 1,500 CD’s or more (closer to 2,000 now). Now they reside in stacks of Manhattan Mini-Storage boxes in the back corner of the sunless hovel I call my apartment.
The titles are in disarray within their various boxes, no longer in alphabetical order (which drives me nuts!), waiting for the day when I find a proper set of shelves to house them. I use to rationalize that I was getting some sort of exercise swiveling my head from left to right and squatting up and down, searching from 100 RIFLES and AMERICAN BEAUTY through THE YOUNG LIONS and YO-YO MA PLAYS ENNIO MORRICONE.
Now I sit at a desk to find music. My chair has a lump in the middle of the seat with deep indentations on either side that provide scathing evidence of my ever-spreading middle-aged butt. And my sad excuse for a desk is a hand-me-down dining table with folding T-legs underneath that don’t allow the chair to slide all the way in unless I work on a small piece of real estate in the corner.
At the moment, the desk is covered with 65 or so review and purchased CDs waiting for more than the cursory listen most of them have had. I stare at their spines with a blank look. The choices make me break out in a cold sweat and film score overkill begins to set in. If I find nothing that strikes my fancy on the desk (or I’m procrastinating in writing reviews, which is usually the case), I open the laptop, plug in the external hard drive, and begin the search once again.
I open my Music folder, then the Soundtracks sub-folder, and stare at the 501 composer names (including “Various”) within. From “Addinsell, Richard” to “Ziv, Mikhail,” the names reach out to me, beckoning me with snatches of themes and motifs. Visual and audio memories scrambling to once again take their place in the sun–that is, if I’ve even heard the score.
The problem with “the digital future” (or living in New York where space is at a premium) is that my music has become, out of necessity, “out of sight, out of mind.” I’ve amassed so many scores that I’ll never have time to listen to them all. Out of the 3,000+ scores I own on CD and in digital format, I estimate I’ve only listened, really listened, to maybe 1/3 of them. And when faced with that prospect of choosing what to listen to, and the vision of column after column of yellow-gold folders, sometimes I just shut down. The choices are too numerous. They are paralyzing. My cup overfloweth and I’m drowning.
In Sheenya Iyengar’s The Art of Choosing, she discusses the effect that choice makes on our lives. Part of that discussion focuses on how too many choices can often be tougher than just a few. I see myself in that group everyday.
When “there are simply too many notes,” as Jeffrey Jones said in AMADEUS, it’s a problem. When I’m caught up in “The Sizzler Effect,” falling victim to the must-have mentality that rears its ugly head as the seemingly bottomless well of new releases fills and refills, that too is a problem. It only exacerbates the problem, adding fuel to the fire. When I just let all of that go, I’m awash in great film music. I stop over-analyzing the situation and just enjoy my bounty of musical blessings.