[Dixielandjazz] David Hurwitz: Seven Phrases in the Life of a Hard-Core Collector

Norman Vickers nvickers1 at cox.net
Sun Sep 7 22:31:30 PDT 2003

Hello Listmates:  This came across my screen.  Just substitute OKOM ( or any
specific OKOM musician) for the allusions to classical music and it would
apply!  Enjoy.  Food for thought.

Norman Vickers

David Hurwitz: Seven Phrases in the Life of a Hard-Core Collector

 I'm sure that some of you have seen that famous little poster called "The
 Six Phases of a Project?" In case this escaped your attention until now,
 these are: (1) enthusiasm; (2) disillusionment; (3) panic; (4) search for
 the guilty; (5) punishment of the innocent; (6) praise and honors for the
 non-participants. It occurred to me recently that the life of a typical
 hard-core classical music record collector might be similarly categorized,
 and so I modestly propose the following:
 Phase 1: Discovery. This is the most wonderful time of all, when the world
 seems full of an almost limitless number of masterpieces crying for your
 attention. The only constraint on your enthusiasm is your pocketbook, and
 you do whatever you can to purchase as much as possible as quickly as

Phase 2: Expansion. You notice that the same music sounds different in
 different performances, and so you begin collecting multiple versions of
 your favorite works and start to get a sense for which artists offer
 interpretations that are most to your liking. You smile knowingly when
 friends and family members ask the perfectly logical question: Why do you
 need 15 different recordings of Mahler's Second Symphony? Foolish people!

Phase 3: Fandom. Your taste in various performers leads you to fixate on
 or two (or more) who you believe hold the key to indisputable artistic
 greatness. Now instead of purchasing multiple recordings of the same music,
 you're after multiple recordings of the same music by the same artist at
 different periods (sometimes only a few days apart). You begin looking for
 pirate air-checks, private recordings, every scrap you can get your hands
 on, no matter if it sounds awful and your idol might have had a really bad
 day. You MUST have it anyway. You find great signficance in relatively tiny
 interpretive differences from one performance to the next.
 The next four phases are not necessarily the inevitable outcomes of the
 first three, and not every hard-core collector experiences all of them, but
 most eventually manage at least one or two.

Phase 4: Nostalgia. This is a transitional phase: now comes that terrifying
 moment when you feel that you've heard it all. You've mastered the basic
 repertoire and know all of the great performers, those you like and those
 you don't, and have reached the dreaded Great Works Saturation Point.
 missing in your life is the thrill of discovery: that first flush of
 enthusiasm for each masterpiece as it first sounded when you originally
 encountered it.

 Phase 5: Crusade. Happily salvation is at hand, in the form of dozens of
 fine independent labels specializing in all sorts of repertoire niches just
 waiting to be explored. There are two principal dangers with this phase
 including possible bankruptcy). The first is the inevitable and chronic
 of shelf space, a difficulty avoided as you make your first trips to that
 fabulous musical safety-valve, the used CD shop. The second danger is the
 tendency, similar to what happens in phase 3 above, to make exaggerated
 claims for music that really isn't all that special or interesting just
 because its novelty excites your fancy. People will look at you strangely
 you vigorously try to defend the assertion that Havergal Brian was
 greatest composer, Sorabji a genius, or that Beethoven was a musical pygmy
 compared to Ferdinand Ries. This phase can go on for years, with literally
 thousands of discs passing through a typical collector's hands in an
 crusade for that Holy Grail of classical music: the neglected masterpiece.
 If you seriously believe that the "three Bs" means Bax, Boughton, and Bach
 (W.F. of course!), then you've gone too far, and it's really time to move
to Phase 6.

 Phase 6: Renewal. One day, as you look through the letter B in your
 carefully alphabetized collection, you see those 40 or 50 Beethoven cycles
 that you haven't touched in months, or even years. Playing the symphonies,
 just for old time's sake, you're stunned to realize that they truly are
 light years better than the second rate novelties that have constituted
 main musical diet lately. So you move on to Brahms, Mozart, Handel, Mahler,
 Haydn, Bach, even (gasp!) Tchaikovsky, and Richard Strauss. It's as if you'
 re hearing them all for the first time--and how alive, how refreshing they
 all sound! You fall in love with the great classics all over again, and you
 realize that the judgment of history isn't always wrong. They don't call
 "warhorses" for nothing!

 Phase 7: Maturity. If you're lucky, you may get this far. You realize that
 it's not necessary to own 50 Beethoven cycles, 46 of which you never play,
 when you can be just as happy with 20 of them, 16 of which you never play.
 The complete harmonium music of Siegfried Karg-Elert, that Bulgarian Mahler
 cycle, 20 or 30 Gregorian Chant collections, six copies of the same
 historical recording reissued on six different labels in marginally varying
 (terrible) sound quality, your cherished 12 CD box containing pirate
 recordings of Sviatislav Richter's "legendary" Spandau Prison concerts, and
 literally dozens of Baroque operas about which you remember nothing beyond
 the fact that they all sound exactly the same--all of these go straight to
 the used CD store where, like lost umbrellas, they will be returned to
 circulation to nourish the next generation of classical CD collectors. And
 as for you, well, you still purchase new releases, but discretely,
 selectively, and you take the time to enjoy every one.

 David Hurwitz

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