July 13, 2014

"I decided, as an average music listener and music fan, to go through each of the 1,500 or so records in my husband’s personal collection..."

"... and write about each one. I’d never written about music before, so I just went with my gut and wrote stream-of-consciousness style about how the music was making me feel," writes Sarah O’Holla in an article that's teased on the Slate front page as "What's the Right Way for a Woman to Listen to Music?" The title at the article page is "Last Kind Words/Lost 78s and the insular world of music obsessives," and it's mostly about the book "Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records," by Amanda Petrusich. But I'm mostly interested in O'Holla's discussion about her own writing project, which is a blog called My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection, about which she says (in the first-linked, Slate piece):

I wasn’t following the rules about how you’re supposed to write about music, but people were connecting to it, and suddenly I had picked up thousands of readers. To my surprise, though, a small but very vocal group of women tried to shout me down: What I was doing was sexist since I was writing about my husband’s record collection and not my own. I was making it harder for female cultural critics. The only reason men were reading it was because I came off as naive or stupid.
Wow. I don't know how I missed that dustup, which happened last March. It's a nice example of people not getting blogging. Funny that men weren't bitching about her calling her husband's records "stupid." The problem was that she was writing about her feelings, free-form, and the feelings were toward not just music but toward her husband. The things that will get you in trouble these days, and what does all that have to do with Slate's attempt to pull in readers — female, no doubt — with the teaser "What's the Right Way for a Woman to Listen to Music?"

Clearly, there's no "right way," and women can listen however they want. The issue that interests me is how you can find something right in your own house and jump off it into a series of blog posts. Here's the first post on My Husband's Stupid Record Collection, dated February 22, 2014:
Alex and I have lived together for 9 years. In those 9 years we have packed up, moved and unpacked his record collection 5 times. It’s about 15 boxes, about 1500 hundred records “that includes the singles and stuff, which you’re also going to have to review.” Is what Alex just said to me from the other room.

This project was my idea, inspired by maybe one too many glasses of wine last weekend, when I was in charge of changing the music. “I can’t believe there are so many records here that I have never listened to. I should try to listen to all of them. And then write about it.”...
Nicely bloggy, I say, self-interestedly, having done a similar project beginning July 21, 2013:
I told you here that I was about to start a new project. I'm going to call it "Records From My Father." I inherited a big stack of record albums that my father bought in the 1950s and 60s and that were part of the home I grew up in. I didn't really understand what I was hearing and what these things meant to my father, who has been gone a long time.

I decided to listen to one album at a time — not that I'll endure all of them — and see what I think. I don't expect to recall my childhood memories or to reconstruct the inner life of the man who existed in ways that couldn't be understood by me at the time. I don't expect anything, really. The idea is simply to encounter these albums, because I have them, because he bought them, and because I know they have meaning, even though I don't think it is possible to find that meaning.
I'm jealous that I didn't get more attention, including from feminists telling me I shouldn't dwell on my father's music. If I'd gotten some criticism, I might have soldiered on, instead of only getting to 6 installments of "Records From My Father." I'm not the kind of person to doggedly commit to doing a whole big set, and even with more like 150 than 1500, I wouldn't do them in alphabetical order by artist. If you're going to play records and drift around within your own mind, you've got to have some choice about what to play. I can't imagine doing one Julie London album after another while thinking about my father. I had to mix it up with the Ray Conniff material, which also demands dilution.

20 comments:

Fernandinande said...

Clearly, there's no "right way," and women can listen however they want.

True, of course, for normal people, but Slate's target audience yearns for rules and conformity.

gspencer said...

1500 records?

Listen AND write about each one?

Like, too much time on your hands?

Megaera said...

@gspencer: At least for the 78 rpms, the whole record, shouldn't take more than about 4 minutes max; some some were recorded on one side only, though a few were cut on both. So the older stuff is going to be pretty abbreviated.

The Crack Emcee said...

1500 records is a small record collection.



SteveR said...

For my records (~ 600) the music is only one part of the story. The times, places and people I associate with these albums give them meaning that just listening, for the sake of listening, can never do. So it's not that impressive an endeavor, fortunately my wife and I share a lot of the memories.

The Crack Emcee said...

I've been trying to figure out what to call the parameters of my foster sister's cotton candy sensibility, which also didn't conform to the musical canon. Her collection had a big influence on my tastes, since she was in the next room.

Not the kind of thing I thought I'd be seriously pondering at this age,...

Oso Negro said...

If you have to obsess about every single fucking one of your actions in terms of how it appears with regard to the other sex, you need a new definition of "liberated."

Sunslut7 said...

Just another reason why marriage no longer works for males. The costs clearly out weigh the benefits IMHO.

I can get a dog if I want companionship so badly.

Dump the babe and be free. You can get maid service and laundry service for a lot less than a wife costs.

Plus, now that prostitution is virtually legal in the USA, you can a disease ridden rent-a-love anywhere, at anytime.

I mean, really, why bother with marriage anymore. Let the bitch move out and then change your cell phone number and your address. Problem solved.

William said...

I picked up a cd entitled " Legends 100 Hits by Perry Como". There's a reason why Perry Como has fallen from public consciousness. He had a crooner's pleasant voice but nearly everything he recorded was banal and insipid. But he's great for purposes of nostalgia. He was very popular when I was young, but, then, poof, he disappeared. Playing his cd brought back memories of black & white tvs with a rolling horizontal hold and cardigan sweaters with a peculiar vivacity......,,The greats like Frank Sinatra and the Beatles never go away. They remain part of your life's journey in all it's stages. But mediocrities like Perry Como are embedded in their moment, and when you listen to them it brings back that moment with peculiar poignance. So listen to the Ray Coniff singers and contemplate the transience and banality of our life here on earth and avoid the music of the spheres.

DavidD said...

Anyone blogging my CD collection (as opposed to my album collection, which would be fairly straight-forward) would have to understand that a lot of the CDs are of artists who had one popular song on the radio in the days before iTunes reinvigorated the singles market--and that there are entire phases of my life during which I made no music purchases at all, other things having taken priority....

SGT Ted said...

To my surprise, though, a small but very vocal group of women tried to shout me down: What I was doing was sexist since I was writing about my husband’s record collection and not my own. I was making it harder for female cultural critics. The only reason men were reading it was because I came off as naive or stupid.

Feminists are such assholes.

Carol said...

my foster sister's cotton candy sensibility,

Eh, girls have terrible taste in music. I was lucky to have two older brothers, or I would have been subjected to Brenda Lee instead of Little Richard.

And I hate to see Perry Como called a "mediocrity," but the big label music was pretty bland. He was a wonderful singer.

campy said...

"group of women tried to shout me down:"

#BanBossy

Ann Althouse said...

I loved Perry Como when I was a child in the 1950s. He had a TV show, and his calm gentleness seemed great to me. Now, I see the blandness, but to me as a child, it was like Mr. Rogers.

St. George said...

Headline at 'The Gloss," an feminist hairdo website...

"21 Reasons You Should Take a Butt Selfie This Summer"

Sorun said...

"1500 records is a small record collection."

When I was in the Navy, I did a big favor for a friend who was spending all his money on Heavy Metal albums. I told him the story of the Typical Black Guy: A black guy joins the Navy, and as soon as he has a steady paycheck, he buys a brand new car. He cruises around the base, the laundromat, exchange, etc., showing off his car. He's cool, he's somebody, he owns a Buick. That's where his whole paycheck goes every month. And what does he have after four years in the Navy? A four year-old car.

My friend stopped buying albums and instead became obsessed with how much money he could save. After the Navy he started a construction business. My own savings went for college. I don't know what happened to the Typical Black Guy, but chances are he blames white people for it.

richardsson said...

I was a 78 record collector back in the 1970's. I went to the same record shop that Dr. Demento, Canned Heat, Ry Cooder, and when they were in town, the Rolling Stones patronized, The Jazz Man Record Shop in Santa Monica. I only have a couple of records that might be worth a lot of money. I have a Coleman Hawkins "Body and Soul" on the Harlem Rainbow Record Shop label. One of the major labels signed him and bought them up and reissued it, I think. Very historic, great record. But, most of the rare records that were good were reissued on LP and later on CD. Dr. Demento bought most of his records from the "Dime a Disk" table. He was one of the few who made it pay.

Malesch Morocco said...

Only 1600? don't let my wife see this blog!!!

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

Being a strong fan of my father's 78 collection from the 30s and 40s, I'm naturally curious what this record-blogger found in her husband's 78 collection. But not curious enough to follow the blog to find out.

It is fun to psychoanalyze one's friends by just peering through their record collection to learn what they voluntarily listen to.

Peter said...

"most of the rare records that were good were reissued on LP and later on CD. "

That would be my PoV, but then I'm not a collector.

I might occasionally want to hear the content of some old records, but I sure wouldn't want to look after 1,500 old disks. Let alone lug them someplace if I moved. How much do 1,500 non-vinyl records weigh, anyway?

Although I did discover that with Audacity software one can listen to a 78 rpm record at the correct speed, even if all one has is a 33/45 rpm-only turntable.