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The State Of Collecting

When I started collecting seriously in 2015, I had about 620 CDs.  Some people would say that’s a lot.  I remember in the 90’s, I started really building my collection by visiting pawn shops.  CDs were usually $5 each.  Now, they are $1-2 each at thrift shops.  The low cost allows me to indulge in albums I wouldn’t have taken a chance on at $5.

I say that I started collecting “seriously” in 2015 because that is when I started tracking my collection online with Discogs.  From that point onward, I am able to see when I added more to my collection.  The online site doesn’t give any statistics over time, but they do allow you to download your collection for you to analyze yourself.  I’m no Excel guru, so although I tried to create some pretty pictures and graphs, I was unable to get anything that was suitable.

In 2016, I added 207 CDs.  Looking through the filtered list, some additions catch my eye.  This is the year I got a couple of holiday CDs from a secret santa.  It’s the year I first heard Kraftwerk, one of those legendarily influential groups you should hear.  In fact, that was probably when I started really trying to experience “the legends” when up to that point, they were out of my normal musical orbit.  Some other artists that I’d never owned before, notable and not, include: Vince Guaraldi, Steely Dan, Eurythmics, Laurie Anderson, Cyndi Lauper, and The Pretenders.

In 2017, I added 254 CDs.  I was more actively seeking out sources for cheap CDs.  I would hit thrift shops and flea markets on a regular basis.  I learned that some thrift shops didn’t really have the turnover that others did, so some places had to be hit weekly and others could be visited less frequently.  I was also visiting my local record store for the more elusive titles, which came at a premium price.  Some new artists from this year: Madonna, Autograph, Roxette, Loverboy, Billy Ocean, Pointer Sisters, Billy Squier.

In 2018, I added 327 CDs.  My local record store had moved father away, so I was spending more time at thrift shops and travelling longer distances for flea markets.  I was also discovering other sources for CDs.  ReStore by Habitat For Humanity was a newer discovery.  Antique malls and indoor flea markets were another.  The latter were good sources as they were usually personal collections being sold.  Some of the new artists this year: Testament, Exodus, Dio, Krokus, Black Sabbath, Mercyful Fate (good time for metal), Adam Ant, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Level 42, Aretha Franklin, Annie Lennox, Bruce Springsteen.

All of the purchase counts are exclusive of the duplicate CDs that I bought.  Usually they were upgrades to existing CDs I already had – maybe a foreign pressing, maybe an earlier pressing, maybe a target CD.  In 2018, I sold off 80 of those CDs to a local store.  I have about 30 queued up again.

Is it weird that I am adding to my collection every year a quantity that exceeds most peoples entire collection?  Maybe.  But as in just about any sort of addictive hobby, there will always be examples of those much worse than yourself.  I mean, I have 1500 CDs, but there are people out there with 10x as many.  I’m not even sure I have enough musical interest to span 10,000 CDs.  Since my music tastes only span a couple of decades, that should keep me from going full hoarder.  One collector posted his collection of 40k CDs and it consumed the entire wallspace of two adjoining rooms, plus multiple island cabinets in the middle of one room.  He also said he just returned from a trip to a couple of stores and bought over 160 more CDs.  So, it’s not as bad as it could be.


Another Brick In The Closet

Last year, before the holidays, I found a nice, massive keyboard sitting unloved at a thrift store.  I assume it was still sitting there because anyone that tested it would have found it to be broken.  I, however, am foolish enough to buy things without any consideration of functionality.  So I brought this keyboard home, discovered it was broken, and proceeded to fix it up enough to make it work.  And it’s been sitting in my closet ever since, waiting for its moment of glory.

On this most recent holiday, I saw something else at a thrift shop – a nice, tiny keyboard.  The price was right, so I bought it – untested as is my way.  As soon as I got the device to the car, I realized it was broken.  One of the controller knobs was completely snapped off.  Oh well.  The price was right.  Let’s get it home and see if it even powers up and makes noise.

I got it home and it powered up and made no sound.  Well, it made a buzzing sound, sometimes.  I started doing some online research and learned that this particular synth has a well known issue with that control knob failing (not sure if being broken off is considered “failing”).  So replacements are generally easy to get.  At this point, I don’t even know if that’s the actual problem.  But let’s take a step back and look at this thing.

This little bugger is the Alesis Micron, which is an analog modeling synthesizer.  It originally sold for $400 back in 2004.  It still sells for about $200 on the used market.  I got it for $7.50, half-off the original $15 price.  So you see, it was worth the gamble.  I’ve spent far more on far less (which should be my life’s motto).

When I saw “analog modeling synthesizer” on it, I got really excited.  The only synth of that type I’d really known about before dropping out of the music scene was the Nord Modular, which I remember being a 4-figure keyboard.  These types of keyboards emulate the older synths of the 70s and 80s. and they typically do it very well.  They also have a lot of the features of older synths like arpeggiators (for playing Who Are You) and vocoders (for playing Mr. Blue Sky).  There is a video on Youtube of someone playing Mr. Mister’s Kyrie live and solo on the Micron. But before I can have that kind of fun, this device needs repair.

I have a couple of options.  I can just replace the knob (a potentiometer, if you want to sound cool), which requires some soldering work.  The part costs less than $2 (plus shipping), and of course, I’ll need a new knob button to cap it off.  Yeah, that’s one option, or I can buy a whole new control board with knob for $40.  That’s the plug and play option and the one I opted for.  That and the cap were about $50, so if this works out, I will have a really neat new synth for a little under $60.  And then, it can sit in my closet, too.  How stupid.

It is dumb, but I have a lot of fun rescuing junk and making it (or trying to make it) usable.  I should consider myself fortunate this desire is just for musical equipment and not, say, cats.

The parts are currently being shipped and I should have them next week.  Let’s hope I have as much success with this little Alesis as I did with the huge Alesis.

The Superior Feeling

To somewhat paraphrase that Shania Twain chorus, “God, I feel like a God today.”  I’ve mentioned before that being a programmer is the best thing in the world and it’s the closest you can get to being a god.  Parents, you may think you get to play god, too, but there’s a little issue with deleting your creations when you’re done with them.  So, being a programmer is still the best.

I’ve mentioned before that one of the best things about programming is the ability to automate.  Taking what would be an insurmountable task and making it simple.  And that is what I managed to do today.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve set up a music server in the house, Plex, and in prior posts, I’ve talked about my digital music collection.  Occasionally, I mention that the metadata in the files needs improvement.  And that is also what I’ve done.

Metadata in digital files can be as extensive as you want them to be.  At a minimum, you want the artist and song title to be in there, because most players display that important identifying information.  You can go further and add the album release year and genre, so you can sort and group things that are of similar values.  You can go further still and embed artwork in the file, usually the album cover, so your music player can display that, too.  You can go even further than that and put the lyrics for the song in the metadata so some players will show you the lyrics while the song plays.  That is where I am at and it is what I have done.

There are utilities that let you edit the metadata directly, so you can create a new tag and paste in the lyrics for a song.  But, is that even fathomable to do with over 15,000 songs?  There are tools that will let you look up the lyrics to a song and create the tag automatically, but still, song by song.  I never got to the point of finding utilities that would process a whole album at one time, because I realized I could do it better.  I could do it exactly as I needed it to be done.

With Plex, there is no support for embedded lyrics in the metadata.  Instead, they use what’s called a “side-car” file, which is the same file name, but different extension.  So you have your .flac file and a duplicate .txt file with the lyrics.  Ok, that’s pretty crappy, but I can do it.  But, if I’m going to go through the trouble of getting all these lyric files, why not embed them at the same time?

So I did a quick search online and found a code library that would read and write FLAC metadata.  That’s the only thing I couldn’t do on my own, so I was golden now.  I learned of a website that had a simple means of downloading lyrics through their website, as long as I stripped out everything else from the webpage.  A simple RegEx statement accomplished that.  Writing to a text file, recursing through directories,  all that is simple stuff.


So, I process each artist in a batch, which enumerates all songs for all albums.  One button click to retrieve all the lyrics for all the songs, then a review of any songs that had no matches.  Correct the titles for the non-matches and get lyrics again.  Then a button to process the lyrics which both embeds the lyrics in the FLAC files and also creates a sidecar text file with the lyrics.  So, if all goes well, one double-click on the artist folder, click on Retrieve Lyrics, scroll to confirm that all lyrics came in, click Process.

So, yeah, I do have to process a little over 500 artists, but that is substantially better than thousands of albums or many thousands of songs.

KATT Radio – Late Night Jazz

My CD collection is pretty large right now.  I’ve surpassed 1200 albums and I’m not sure there’s ever going to be an end to the growth.  Sometimes, the realization of this prompts some soul-searching and the question comes up, “why?”  Yes, why do I do this?  What is the actual goal?  There is no real goal, it’s just an ongoing feeling of happiness, tending my collection like a garden.  But sometimes, the thought sneaks in, “That’s a lot of stuff to have.  You can only listen to one CD at a time.”

That’s right.  It is a lot of stuff for such a limited use.  It’s too bad I couldn’t share the awesomeness of it all with people.  And that thought led me down a path that ended up with me considering another potentially obsessive hobby – running a radio station!  You can get low-power AM radio station licenses pretty cheaply.  I started thinking up radio programs and what kind of expenses would come along with such an idea.  Everyone knows there’s no live radio now and all DJs pre-program their sets in advance.  I could easily do that, right?  No one really wants to hear my voice, so it wouldn’t be a banter kind of station, just music.  Hell, anyone can create a playlist, right?  That’s all a radio station is anymore.

But that idea faded as I thought about the reality of trying to make enough music shows (I mean playlists) to keep the station interesting (as I daydream about upending my local radio stations… ha).  So I considered an easier route:  An Internet radio station.  And I researched that and found I could get licensing for about $60/mo, and the licensing software would integrate with some common radio software.  I looked in the radio DJ software and immediately felt less enthusiastic.  It’s like my dilemma when I want to do music.  You have to master this software before you can actually start a project.  And by the time you understand how, you don’t care anymore.

At the same time I was kicking around this idea of broadcasting in my mind, I was pursuing another thought.  The idea that I had all this music doing nothing was nagging at me a little.  I do rip all of my CDs to my home computer (sitting at about 430GB right now) for playback at my desk.  And the idea that I could only really play it at my desk was a slight annoyance.  That’s a lot of music to sit there and do nothing.  So I gave consideration to how to broadcast it.  It would be a nice start to have devices throughout my home that could play my ripped music.  It would be even cooler if I could play it from my phone, anywhere.

As it turns out, there is such a way to do it.  Actually there’s plenty of ways to do it.  And the idea wasn’t all that new to me.  Back in my Zune days, there was a way to have Zune broadcast your music and videos to an XBox.  And I was actually sort of on board with that.  But since I never actually went through with buying an XBox and pursuing the “media center” dream, I had to reconsider my options.  As it turns out, the old XBox software grew up and broke its dependency on XBox.  That software is now called Plex.  And this software will broadcast to all kinds of devices, near and far.  Lots of people use Plex to share their music and videos with their friends.  That’s pretty cool, whether legal or not.

So I installed Plex on my home computer and had it go to town on my music library.  It grabbed a ton of info on my albums and artists from and it was flexible enough to let me edit anything left over on my own.  I went out to my living room and installed the Plex client on my Samsung TV.  It worked, which was impressive.  What wasn’t impressive was my TV’s sound quality.  So, I wrote the experiment off as useless.

Fast forward to today, I was dealing with cat issues.  My new cat has millennial-grade anxiety about everything.  Every sound freaks him out.  He hid under a bed for days, leading me to think he was dying.  But in the short time I’ve had him, I’ve discovered he likes music – a lot.  He likes a lot of the new age, smooth jazz instrumental music I like.  So I thought I would start playing it while I was out of the house, maybe to keep him chilled out.  I was getting ready to grab a Sansa Clip MP3 player and was sort of dreading all the work that would go along with that.  The player needs charged, I have to choose the music to play, the music has to be transcoded to fit onto the Clip, there won’t be a lot of music on there.  This was going to suck.  But wait, I have my entire music library available to stream to my TV.  And I doubt the cat is going to be overly picky about the sound quality…

So I popped back on the living room TV and this time installed the Plex client for the Roku.  It installed quickly and I was off and browsing my collection.  I chose Acoustic Alchemy, which was the music he had heard on his transport to my house.  I played all tracks from all albums on shuffle.  And it just worked.  My TV has a video mode where you can turn the screen off and just use the audio, so I didn’t have to worry about screen burn-in.  I think I have a solution here.

I came back from dinner and the cat was not hiding under a bed, so I consider the music plan a success.  I will try again tomorrow while I’m at work and see how well that works.  And in time, I can build a huge playlist of instrumental songs for him – his own radio station.

The (Sea) Eagle Has Landed

It was many years ago, in 2012, that I started the hobby of kayaking.  I was fresh into a new relationship and had experienced kayaking for the first time.  It was pretty clear that tandem kayaking was probably not going to work out for us.  That meant I needed my own kayak in which to isolate my terrible paddling technique.

As luck would have it, Woot was selling inflatable kayaks at a pretty good price, so I bought some.  Two is some, right?  I did the research and these kayaks, by Sea Eagle, were pretty well respected.  Obviously they had their detractors – those who would never use anything but a solid kayak.  But, there are a lot of conveniences to be had with these inflatables.  The most important is that I could transport it in my MX-5.  Not only that, but I could transport both of them.


Years have gone by, and I’ve been wanting an upgraded version of the Sea Eagle.  I find it very odd they have such a good entry level model at a reasonable price, $200, but if you want the real deal, the model that really earns its keep, the price is over $1000.  There’s nothing you can do in-between?  Damn.

So I watched and waited.  Actually, I let CamelCamelCamel do the watching.  When I created the watch, the Sea Eagle model I wanted was a little over $1000.  I set my target price at $850.  And I got nothing, for almost a year.  I had nearly completely forgotten about the watch when I got an email notification that the kayak was now being sold for $822, and that was the cheapest it had ever been.

Part of me wanted to sit back and think about it.  The other part of me went to Amazon and saw there were only two left in stock.  There’s a lot of expenses that have suddenly crept up on me lately, so I couldn’t justify buying two of these, so I just bought one.  The next day, I went back and the price on the remaining one had gone up slightly to $835, so I guess I did the right thing.  A few days later, that one remaining kayak was up to $913, so, yes, I think I did do the right thing.  However, that’s not the cheapest I’ve ever seen them.  Woot, of all places, once sold the Fast Track model in the $600 range.  Now that’s a great deal.

The package arrived a couple of days earlier than the the initial tracking estimated.  The box was compact and heavy, just as I remember my other kayaks arriving.

I inflated it to get an idea of how it compared to my original Sea Eagles.  There is no comparison.



Where the SE330 hugs your sides, the 385FT gives you plenty of width.  The floor in the FastTrack is firm and has little give.  The material on the FastTrack is substantial and much less pliant.  I left it inflated overnight to let it sort of stretch out.  And of course identify any potential leaks.  It was fine for days (because I’m lazy).

I have yet to take the craft out, but I am eager to try it out this year.

So, Are YOU A Collector? Clearly Not.

As I posted recently, I went on a CD safari and ended returning with 20 CDs.  15 of those were purchased from two flea market vendors, both of whom said they were collectors. 

In the first booth I went to, I felt I was in a hurry for time, so I scanned the discs very quickly, looking for smooth cases.  However, I saw one CD that I had scored on my last flea market trip that was a valuable find.  The CD wasn’t in a a smooth case (actually a shitty, flimsy case), so I was curious what a normal edition of that album looked like.  When I opened the case, I was surprised.  Similar to my previous reaction to finding gold, I said, “Oh, it’s a red-faced Polydor.  Nice.” 

Only a real geek would say “a red-faced Polydor”, right?  That’s a statement that would come out of the mouth of an orthinologist.  Like, you should log that in a bird-watching book along with the time and location.  But, I didn’t log it, I bought it.  WHY?  I already had one and it was a valuable one at that!  Sometimes, you can’t explain these things to collectors.  Different is good.

When I got home and cleaned the CDs all up, I researched what I had purchased.  Now you may recall the post about my $300 find for $3.  Well, this time, I paid $5, and wouldn’t you know it?  Someone has paid over $500 for this CD.


I now have both of these CDs.  What’s the difference?  100% appearance.  These are the two CDs.  They have the same music.


And when I say they have the same music, I checked.  They DO.  I posted this on Relative Waves.  It’s the same.

That’s two waveforms overlaid on each other.  There’s no green or white peeking out anywhere.  That means no differences. SAME SAME SAME.

Anyway.  So now I have a new most valuable CD.  Again, by a large margin.  In fact, my collection value went up by over $1000 from this last trip.  After all, I did find a bunch of other rarities.

Safari 2018

A little over a year ago, I went on a CD hunt, and I recently chose to indulge myself again.  This time, I would travel to a remote metro city with a whole new, fresh collection of thrift shops to plunder.  The trip would be two hours to get there (and coincidentally, two hours to get back).  But that’s quite ok, because driving is something I do.  The MX-5 has 263k miles on it right now and shows no sign of giving up.

I plan on making a couple of alterations to the car before this road trip.  The first is removal of the Zune integration with the stereo.  It’s been fun, but as time wore on, and Zune support in Windows went away, it’s less of a thing now for me.  I’ve gotten back into CDs, which seen to have more fidelity than the Zune audio pumped through a 3.5mm cable, even when the files are lossless.

While I have things disassembled, I also plan to implement the traffic power cable for my GPS and hide the ugly bits behind the dash.  Right now, I have a frankencable coming up from my center console and up the dash.  It doesn’t provide a traffic antenna for the GPS and said GPS bitches about it every single time I start it up.  It will be nice to be rid of that stupid alert and also to have the traffic info for better routing.  This will involve purchasing an add-on 12v socket that I’ll hide behind the dash and plug the GPS power cable into it.  I can’t understand why they don’t design GPS power cables to be either plug-in or hard-wired.  Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve torn the interior of my car apart.  I used to do it on a monthly basis.

And then, a trip like this is something that must be done solo.  I can’t imagine the mind-numbing boredom of sitting in a car as a passenger for hours on end, then slogging around dingy shops for a full day.  I have a list of 20 locations to hit in the remote area, including one bona-fide music store.  I’m not sure if I will have time to hit the flea market while I’m there, but I’ll certainly try.

Friday after work, I spent a couple of hours fighting in the car, routing the power cable for the GPS and removing old audio stuff.  That was a success, or so I thought until I went out for dinner that night.  Now I have an alternator whine in my front right speaker, so I’m going to have to take the dash all apart again and be a bit more cautious with my power cable and audio cable routing.  Worse, it means my Saturday trip (two hours each way) will be in silence.  Oh fucking no.

I headed out early in the morning and made it to the flea market just as it opened.  I found two large CD sellers and spent more than I usually would at a flea market.  I paid more per CD, but I think I got some good items.  (Wait for the post on this.  You have no idea!)

The rest of the day was pretty sad compared to the flea market.  Many thrift shops were closed or out of business.  The music store I went to had outrageous prices, like $8 for used CDs, and nothing remotely collectable.  Well, that’s not true.  I treated myself to a Gold CD for $50.  I’ve said before, you can’t really go wrong with those.  They keep their value.

I finished the day at an old favorite Thai restaurant, which was amazing as usual.  Just like the good old days when you would judge how good the food was by how long your tongue would burn after the meal.  And it was a while.

The traffic feature on the GPS did its job and told me when construction was coming up and when I would be delayed by traffic and for how long.  At one point it was counting down when the traffic jam would end and almost as soon as it said it was over, we started speeding up again.  Amazing.

So tomorrow is car stereo repair time.  And tonight has been cleaning, logging, and ripping.  I’ll do some relative waves posts with some of the new editions I picked up tonight as well.

Too Big To Fail, Too Big To Succeed

I was browsing my old posts and found a semi-promise to relate a story about a massive keyboard I didn’t want anymore.  And the thought of that coincided with something I’ve given thought to in the past with collections.

But first, the story.  At one point in my studio, I had five keyboards.  Two 88-key and three 61-key synths.  On one rack, behind my desk, I had the General Music Equinox and the Casio CZ-1.


On the wall to the right of my desk, I had the Roland RD-600 and a CME UF6.  The CME did not have any sounds; it was just a performance controller.  Sadly, the computer drivers went out of date before I could ever use it.  I’ve actually forgotten where it went or what I did with it.


And in storage was an old Ensoniq ESQ-1, my first professional-grade keyboard.  It was awesome to the end.  That keyboard was eventually sold for a pittance to a guy I was in a club with.  I should have just kept it in storage.


Anyway, I didn’t have a real use for all these keyboards, especially two 88-key controllers.  The Equinox had to go.  I wasn’t looking to make money on it, I thought it would be a fair trade for a mixer, which is something I did need at the time.

I have a Guitar Center in my town, so I loaded up the Equinox in the GF’s car and we headed down to make a deal.  This keyboard is a beast, all metal case, weighted keys, hard drive, floppy drive, sequencer, the works.  But when I get to the equipment guy at Guitar Center, he looks it over and just says, “nah.”  Not literally, but he said as politely as possible that they did not want it.  I explained that I didn’t want cash for it, I wanted to do a trade.  That didn’t change his mind.  So I was bummed out and got ready to pick the monster back up to haul it outside again.  But then the guy asked, “What were you looking to get for it, anyway?”

And I can’t definitely explain why that question caused me to see red.  Maybe I thought he was mocking me after telling me my keyboard was worth nothing to them.  It was a pointless question, completely unnecessary.  Like, if I said, 50 bucks, he would change his mind?  Did he want to see just how desperate I was?  Was he looking to either take advantage of a low price or laugh at me for an unrealistic price?  All these thoughts rushed through my mind and I just snapped at him.  “Nothing, if you’re not interested in taking it!”  And things got awkward, partially because my outburst didn’t really make any sense.

I stormed out of Guitar Center carrying my massive anchor under my arm and the GF followed me out, silently and probably sheepishly.  I’m not one for making a scene (unless someone forgets my SPOON), so it was just bad all around.  And you know what kind of hurt the most?  I bought that keyboard used from the Guitar Center in Plymouth Meeting before I came to Florida.  They’ll sell it, but they won’t trade for it.

So fuck Guitar Center.  After calming down and reassessing, I decided to try the other option, Sam Ash Music.  This would require a longish drive, like an hour away.  So I loaded the Equinox up and headed out solo.  This sales guy tried to set my expectations low.  He said that nobody really wanted these old synthesizers anymore and the best he could do is try to sell it as a MIDI controller.  Yeah, yeah, I hear ya.  He said he could give me $150 for it.

As insulting as that was, I pressed on.  I asked if I could do a trade for a mixer and he warmly agreed.  We walked over to the mixers and I reviewed what I could get for $150.  There was an ok model, but a much better one was there for $200.  So I asked him if I could get the $200 mixer.  He said yeah, we could do that.  We had a deal.  (Spoiler: we didn’t.)

The sales guy gets the mixer, does up all the paperwork for the keyboard trade and he sends me off to the cashier.  She punches everything in and says that’ll be $54.  Excuse me?  This was a trade.  She says yeah, the keyboard is a $150 credit and your mixer is $200.  The sales guy gets called back over.  I ask him what’s going on and he reiterates that we agreed the keyboard would be $150.  I explain that I thought when we were looking at mixers and I asked if I could get the $200 mixer, we were negotiating.  Nope, we were not negotiating at all.

I didn’t want to storm out of a second store in a blind fury, so I sucked it up and bought my $200 mixer for $50 and unloaded an anchor.  In hindsight, I should have kept the keyboard in storage.  I could have gifted it to someone who really wanted to play music.

So that’s the story of the Equinox.  I said that that the circumstances of that story made me think of collections.  The other night I did a quick Craigslist search for CDs and found someone selling his collection of “over 750” CDs.  First of all, you don’t have an accurate count, that’s strike one.  You don’t have a list of albums or even artists, strike two.  You can’t make out any titles from the photos you posted, strike three.  And for your strikeout, what were you looking to get for it, anyway?  $2,250?  hmmmm. Ok.  $3/CD is fair, if I want ALL the CDs.  But at this point, from what I know about the collection, I want zero.

This is the curse of all collections, that the bigger they get, the less aggregate value they have and the more individual value they potentially have.  It’s the same problem with thrift shops and many flea market dealers.  They make the incorrect assumption that every CD is worth the same.  Any intelligent person would agree that is not true at all.  And as the valuable CDs are snatched up, you are left with nothing but junk that is worth far less than the price you are asking.

Holding On

I read a recent post by AK that flew right in the face of a hobby I’ve been cultivating.  It’s something I’ve been doing for a little while and is really only one facet of the other side of the Letting Go story.  The hobby (and obsession for some) is “archival”.

First, I’m no stranger to purges and I feel the same satisfaction from downsizing as anyone with too much stuff would.  However, sometimes, regret comes back to haunt me.  It’s not the loss of a blender or a stack of towels that I miss.  It’s usually something less utility and more historically significant, which usually carries some emotion with it.  When I say historically significant, I don’t mean like a piece of the Berlin wall, I mean something that represents a period of your life.  And even though there is emotion and significance behind it, there is also a strong element of uselessness.

I ‘ve read a little on the KonMari method and internally nodded my head up until I got to the point where it was explained that we hold on to things for two main reasons: the future and the past.  In the case of the future, we don’t want to get rid of something because we may have a future use for it.  That’s a rational argument, but I usually tackle that by reminding myself that when I need it in the future, I can buy the latest and greatest version of what I need.  (Ironically, the latest version of most things will probably be made shoddier and overall be worse in quality, so…) That kind of mindset would make older generations freak out.  How wasteful!

In the case of the past, which is where my archivist neuroses kick in, you are afraid of losing a bit of your identity.  The modern philosophy is to live in the present, which, expressed in outrageous terms, is hedonistic.  If you disregard your past and do not plan your future, what is life?  A day-to-day experience with no permanence.

And, many would agree, the past is highly important, on a personal and societal level.  I’m not going to go to the levels of psychoarchivists who want to preserve absolutely everything, but I do believe that you need to have a record of your past in more than simple digital records.

I have a box in which I keep all my ephemera.  I have items going back to my teenage years, which I believe are personally socially significant.  One of the most useless things I have is a rubber hand with formable fingers.  Yes, at the time, it was usually used to flip people off and it has literally zero value today, but it’s a part of my past and is a useful prop when sharing my life story with someone.  Everybody loves props.

I have an old horoscope paper which used to be sold in little plastic tubes back in the day.  I have memorabilia from past jobs – old name tags, signs, magnets.  You could find some of these things in thrift shops and consignment stores and that is where the great disconnect happens.  People think these things have value.  They only have value to the person who acquired them.  You can’t buy a memory from a store.  I would never try to replace anything from my memory box from a store.  Like a child’s replacement teddy bear, it’s not the same.

So back to the KonMari method.  You might surmise that I would keep everything in my memory box because it gave me joy.  That’s not entirely true.  It rekindles a memory.  And more importantly, the loss of not having those items is greater than the cost of keeping them.  There is a time in a friendship where you finally feel comfortable baring yourself for another person, and that is when the memory box comes out and is shared.  To not have a physical record of your personal highs and lows would be a shame.  You can flash all the photos and videos on the screen that you want, but to be able to touch someone’s past is unique and special.

Bringing It Back

A couple of months ago, I picked up a new keyboard at a thrift shop.  As the holidays were approaching, I only had a few moments to spend any time with it.  I did a quick cleaning and test of the device and found it was… weird.  Something was really odd sounding about the patches when I played them.  I don’t have perfect pitch, but I can hear well enough to know when something is out of key.  And that’s what the problem sounded like.

The phenomenon was very weird, because as I would play songs that are completely familiar to me, I would screw up while playing them.  Not because of any sloppiness or difference in the keyboard action, it was because my ears were hearing a different pitch than I was playing on the keyboard, so my fingers would try to compensate for that and stretch to the wrong next key.  Like I would play a C and know the next note is a D, but my ear hears a B and my fingers think I have to stretch over an extra key to get to the D.  Just a mess.

I did try some repair on the keyboard a little bit afterwards.  After opening it up, I found the pitch and mod wheel cable was disconnected, and it looked like something had been spilled inside.  I pulled the keys that looked like they’d been affected by the spill and cleaned them.  The contacts looked fine.  And then, right in the middle of that procedure, the holidays came back, so I had to close the keyboard all up and store it again.  Along the way, I found I had lost 4 springs for the keys I had cleaned.  Not lost, but they had fallen out.

The other night, I pulled the beast back out and set about some trial and error troubleshooting.  During a previous round of testing, I had discovered there really was a pitch problem and my primary suspect was the aftertouch ribbon.  So after I replaced the missing key springs, I did a quick test with the aftertouch cables disconnected.  Perfect sound!  I reconnected the pitch and mod wheel cable and it still worked fine.  Things are looking up!

I considered the restoration project a success.  I had a functional 88-key keyboard for $100.  Who could complain about that?  Well, maybe I could complain that I had nowhere to set the thing up.  And having this massive electronic device made me miss the even bigger electronic device I nearly gave away.  That one was a real monster:


Maybe one day I’ll write about the experience of trading this killer keyboard for a little tiny mixer.  Maybe it’ll include the confrontation with the sales guy at Guitar Center.

I have some desire to do some music.  To have all these devices and not make use of them is a shame.  And  ridiculously, I have some desire to recollect my original keyboards, maybe in rackmount form, so I can have my original inspiring sounds.

Things were different back then.  Things were more simple and also more difficult.  But the difficulty didn’t matter at the time because there wasn’t any other option.  You had to be daring and involved and willing to expend effort.  Now, expending the effort is rather a big deal.  I have a lot of software to set up, some hardware to configure, patches to configure, and eventually some audio routing will be needed.  These things aren’t conducive to creativity.

As I’ve been rebuilding my playing stamina and relearning some of my old compositions (which I’m very saddened to find I’ve forgotten a lot), I’ve been debating putting some of them online.  I actually have some old video of my playing from 2009 but I doubt it’s usable.  Production values have skyrocketed since then, so I’d probably need to record the video and audio separately, then mix them together to get the best quality.  More setup, more effort, less creativity.

Additionally, I’ve got yet another future audio project that is going to require the full recording setup effort, so maybe it’s happening sooner than I think.  Here’s to 2018 having a more diverse creative output.