I Have Nothing To Listen To!

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.

But those days are few and far between.

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only alphabetical order nut out there.

    Curse this stupid age of abundance! Simpler WAS better. I think we savored our meager meals a lot more than this all-you-can-eat buffet.

  2. I know the feeling. Alphabetical order sure helps (luckily, I have enough space to store my CDs alphabetically in filing cabinets for easy access/selection), but it’s still tough to choose most of the time. There’s a French expression that says “Trop de choix tue le choix” (very loosely translated as “Too many choices kills chosing”). I recently started something though: listening to all my soundtracks in alphabetical order. Agreed, it’s a little “forced” but it allowed me to rediscover a number of titles… and I’m still going through letter A!

    As for the abundance of titles released nowadays, it can seem unreal sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see so many releases of new and older scores, but it too contributes to the difficult choice dilemma: what to buy? Just after I order online, there’s almost always a bunch of new or upcoming releases announced. Of course, these invariably feel like “must-buys” too.

    1. I think I tried going through my scores alphabetically once. Then that too became overwhelming. LOL But at least you do get to rediscover score you may have forgotten.

      Ah, to have shelves…or filing cabinets…or something other than storage boxes.

  3. LOL, my situation is exactly the same, I could have written that article verbatim to reflect my own situation/dilemma! Funny thing is, when faced with such a huge choice, an embarrassment of riches,I always tend to fall back on the first few scores I ever owned. Especially if it music to listen to when I’m writing, I absolutely have to have something familiar. If its something for the iPod I tend to get more adventurous. But like for instance right now, my speakers are sounding out those oh-so-familiar strains of John Barry’s 007 and Counting from Diamonds are Forever. The first brand new vinyl soundtrack I ever bought.

    1. I know the feeling, Steve. When pressed, I’ll fall back on THE OMEN, STAR WARS, and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. Maybe because it recaptures that first glow of film music for me.

  4. Amazingly I’ve never alphabetized my hundreds of CD scores, but I know which area of the house to locate just about anything. One storage unit is horror and science fiction, another jazz-based, some are even label-based and, of course, certain composers have their own hallowed area. One wall unit contains the 100 or so unexplainable favorites that I always grab or play at least once a week (ARABESQUE, BEDAZZLED, Bacharach’s CASINO ROYALE, GOLIATH AND THE BARBARIANS, HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE, LA COURSE DU LIEVRE A TRAVERS LES CHAMPS, METTI UNA CERA A CENA, THE SANDPIPER etc. etc. – isn’t it strange the ones that just ingratiate themselves no matter how often you listen to them?). Even if my hundreds become thousands, these 100 or so will always be the magic ones. I’m always curious about the odder favorites of film score enthusiasts.

  5. I’ve got my collection organized by classical, jazz, misc, and soundtrack and then by company. As an example the entire Chandos film series is together. The disadvantage is you have to know it was an SAE release or you’ve got trouble. But it seems to work for me.

    1. I tried organizing mine once by label, simply for the aesthetics of seeing the same color combinations for the specialty labels. It wasn’t a problem keeping up with which label released what, but within a couple of days I said screw the aesthetics because the overall alphabetical aspect needed to preserved. I have issues.

  6. Though I have all types of music. Everything is in it’s own little place. Alpha order by artist/within… alpha order by title.

    Classical/Rock/Dance/Jazz, etc… have one pretty large rack. However, Soundtrack’s have 5 very large racks. Plus one long hanging rack. This is just cd’s. In another room there are 7 wooden crates that house all my lp’s. All of them… Soundtrack’s.

    My best strategy for listening to things…

    I either pick a genre, or, film series that I want to revisit the score(s). My back up plan… pick a composer and listen to things I have not heard in a while.

    My most recent rampage was… Predator 1 and 2… Alien Vs. Predator 1 and 2… Alien 1 thru 4… Multi composers/multi styles.

    Strategy usually works… But… sometimes I sit in front of this collection and my brain just cannot think of a single thing to listen to… :) It happens to the best of us… And, we the Film Music collectors are the BEST.

    1. Glad to see I’m not the only one, Richard. :) Interesting take on doing multi composers and styles. I should give that a shot something.

      And, yes, we film music collectors ARE the best.

      1. Yes, we ROCK!

        There are a couple of other ways I usually get by and pick up something and play…

        1. Take a director/composer relationship… and play the scores you have… Examples… Hitchcock/Herrmann, Spielberg/Williams, Shaffner/Goldsmith, Brooks/Morris, Cronenberg/Shore and Amiel/Horner…

        2. Genre/Similiar subject matter… Examples…
        Haunted houses… Poltergeist, The Haunting, House on Haunted Hill, Amityville Horror…
        Young Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes (Zimmer), Sherlock Holmes (Gowers).

        Usually what will happen is it will spark interest in listening to other things by the various composers I have just heard.

        As stated before… And yet… I still have “idiot” days where I just sit there and stare it down not having a clue of what to listen to…

        Such is the life of a film music collector…

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