Lessons from a lifetime of music collecting

Binder 1: From King Sunny Adé and the Afro Celts to Alejandro Escovedo and Cesária Évora


AFTER a few decades of music collecting, I have amassed about a thousand CDs (not including another stash of vinyl albums in boxes in the closet). At the height of my music buying, I would go to my favorite record store the Tuesday after payday (Tuesday is when new releases traditionally come out) and spend up to $100 on new music. That would be total some $200 a month. I don’t remember having that much disposable income, but that’s what I spent — buying six or seven compact discs at each visit, ranging from independent labels to perennial pop favorites, classical or jazz to hidden gems I had heard about from magazines (then list-serves, then websites), and word of mouth.

And that’s just what I spent on recorded music. I would also go out at least one night a week to a venue to hear a band.

When I worked at TIME and wrote a little (very little) about music and covered events like SXSW, I got on music publicists’ lists, and they’d send me new releases in advance. That made my collection balloon so much that I ran out of shelf space in both my office and Brooklyn apartment. They ended up in boxes. And, too lazy to sort through before I moved midwest, they were schlepped to my Chicago condo and have been sitting in closets.

All of that has tapered quite a bit these days. I don’t go hear live music as often as I used to (though I have lots of tickets for upcoming shows — including the Stones in Milwaukee in June — and I subscribe to the Chicago Symphony). And because I now have much of that collected music at my fingertips — either from the discs I’ve digitized in iTunes or via online music services — I don’t buy many CDs these days. That $200 I used to pay to support the music industry has dropped to my monthly Spotify $10.99 premium account payment.

I still buy the latest work of favorite artists at my local record store — to support both the artists and the shop (recent purchases include the latest releases from Lucinda Williams and My Brightest Diamond). And I make it a habit to buy the CD of any musician I hear at a live venue whose music I dig (recently, The Maytags from Iowa and Swedish Americana artist Sofia Talvik). It gives me a chance to chat with the musicians after, and to support them with a little gas money as they drive to their next gig. Continue reading “Lessons from a lifetime of music collecting”


The Met’s New American Wing

“First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.” The monumental canvas of “Washington Crossing the Delaware” (1851), by Emmanuel Leuntze is the centerpiece of the refurbished American wing at the Metropolitan Museum. The frame is a recreation of the original, based on a photograph of the painting by Matthew Brady when it appeared at a major exhibition in New York. Say what you will about its historic authenticity (it was painted in Germany, after all), the piece is an impressive and imposing work.

The re-working of the American wing is equally impressive. I particularly enjoyed the “visible storage” area, and the recreation of entire rooms from different periods of American history (including an early 20th century room by Frank Lloyd Wright). And I was struck by the number of paintings by Eakins and Sargent (including the latter’s experiments in impressionism).

I came to the Met on a break from preparing to move from my Brooklyn apartment (de-crapifying is what I’m calling it – purging my place of unneeded goods and stuff so I don’t have to unpack it on the other end) to visit the recently unveiled American wing and the Islamic art wing, which was redone last year.