Too Many Notes?

“Your work is ingenious. It’s quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that’s all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.” —Emperor Joseph II (Jeffrey Jones) in AMADEUS

Is it just me or are we film score fans suffering from “too many notes”? Am I the only one suffering film score burnout? With 2 1/2 months left to go in the year, I’ve already purchased nearly 70 soundtracks. Since I’m currently without storage for my CDs, everything is crammed into numerous Manhattan Mini Storage boxes and shoved in the back corner of my apartment.

Except those 70. They’re stacked haphazardly and in no particular order around the apartment, taking up visual and surface space. They mock me with their sheer volume, the money spent, and the fact that I don’t have the time and energy to listen to them all.

Some I’ve given only a cursory listen, some are still in their plastic wrap, falling further and further to the bottom of whatever stack they’re in, fading from memory. There are rare exceptions but the idea of spending more than a couple of days or 2-3 listens on any one score grows more remote with each passing day.

Either way, they sit there gathering dust. That’s not good for them or my psyche.

THE PROBLEM

Every week film score fans are being bombarded with new scores. And I don’t mean just contemporary scores. Those are timed to coincide with movie release dates. But combine them with the re-releases, restorations, and remastered versions of older scores, and I understand the phrase “embarrassment of riches”. Because it IS embarrassing.

I can’t remember a week this year in which at least one new release wasn’t announced. And if there was, then that rare breathing space was later clogged with an influx of new product.

What or who is responsible for this glut of releases?

WHO’S TO BLAME

Film score fans can be broken into two groups–listeners and collectors. Most of us are a healthy combination of both. But the joy of listening suffers when releases seem to be geared to collectors. At 1,000–1,500 units for most of the releases, an unhealthy air of competition among the labels—and the fans—have crept in over the last couple of years.

Fans rush to their computers bi-weekly for the Monday afternoon Intrada announcement or stay up until (or get up during) the wee hours of the morning to see what quarterly titles Varese Sarabande has released for their CD Club. Why? Because if you wait 24 hours, the title you didn’t know about may be sold out.

Now the fun begins.

The disappointments voiced because a Holy Grail that wasn’t included, the nasty posters that inform us in no uncertain terms that they’re not going to buy it (as if anybody cares), the flurry of message board comments that bitch about the slowness of uploading because their index fingers are twitching to add it to their cart, not to mention the queries that begin for the next titles down the line before this batch has been fully announced.

It’s a sickness.

The tanking economy didn’t seem to make much of a dent in limited runs selling out, at least from a buyer’s standpoint, though it may have slowed it down a bit. And I can’t blame the labels for the smaller print runs. Who wants to be stuck with stacks of CDs they can’t sell?

I don’t pretend to have full knowledge of the amount of effort that goes into producing a CD, much less the ins and outs of marketing it and making a profit from it. But the stress I feel at the thought of more releases can’t begin to compare to the anxiety the labels must feel to sell them week after week.

I now pray that the labels release titles I’m not interested in, not only to give my wallet some relief, but I’m tired of adding to the clutter in my apartment. Yes, I’ve begun to equate film scores with clutter. And that makes me sad.

THE SOLUTION?

Would scaling back on production harm the labels’ bottom line? If not, perhaps over time it would instill healthier anticipation among the fans. Once upon a time, we were grateful for anything film music-related we could get our hands on. Each release was like a birthday present. Now the flooded release schedule is like dating in New York. Everyone’s head constantly swivels around on the lookout for their next ex. And so film music becomes nothing more than a quick hookup–it might be fun for an hour or so, but it’s easily disposable and you don’t remember their name.

I’m certainly under no obligation to purchase every title that comes out. (And, trust me, I don’t.) But these are dedicated professionals who work their butts off to bring us more and more of the music we love. So perhaps it’s that word “more” that is at the root of the problem. I’d like to show my appreciation by giving them my time and not just my hard-earned dimes.

Which is better for the listening experience? Quantity or quality? I, for one, prefer the latter.

Do you agree? Or is it just me?

  1. I had my burnout around 2000 and it seemed to last for a long time. These days i spend more time listening to scores than writing about them. I love making internal lists and exploring and rating new music but i do feel that outstanding releases come far too slowly. I’ve been rating more and more cues with the label of bein indifferent. It worries me a bit. I have to say though that truly memorable music is of the past and what’s worse is that i don’t care. I like “in the moment” cues these days. Is it a burnout? You tell me.

    1. I hope to get back to listening more. But with the constant influx of new (and new/old) releases, it’s tough. I can understand that “in the moment” cues would be appealing. It’s certainly that requires a shorter attention span (something that looks better and better the older I get LOL) and has less chance of disappointment. As to whether or not it’s burnout. I dunno. I don’t have any answers. Wish I did.

      1. I can also identify with you having too many scores that you haven’t even listened to. My “back catalogue” is growing and growing and I can’t listen fast enough, neither do I want to (at least not all). Who knows why I have this obsession of owning every score known to man and beyond. I am playing the catch-up game, and I am losing big time :|

        1. It’s like reading. I’ll never be able to read everything I’d like to read in one lifetime. So I try and just enjoy what I’m reading at that particular moment. It certainly doesn’t always work that way. Hmm, might have to start implementing some of that with my music listening as well.

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