(Justin ⇒ Jasdev, 7/27/20)
> Do you — or did you — collect anything in the same way the dance genre does for unreleased tracks? Letters to J Bonus Points if you still have the collection around and include a photo.
You talking about your continued fondness for music makes me a little wistful and a little envious.
(Also, re: Forest — and this has nothing to do with anything else in this letter but I can’t let it go unsaid — my next tattoo is going to be a quote I think you might like.)
I spent most of my high school and early college days as the exact stereotype of a precocious, pretentious indie kid.
I owe most of my early music tastes to my brother. His hand-me-down MP3 player (I think technically a walkman, with an 8MB drive) and the bespoke mix CDs he’d play as he drove us to school my freshman year of high school was the first real exposure I had to music as an ecosystem that existed outside of the radio.
Most of my high school music taste was pretty Garden State-core: lots of The Shins, lots of Death Cab, lots of things that would be shunted off today into the infinite recursive void of a foundational indie folk Spotify playlist.
College (and the two years thereafter) is when I really fell in love with what I’d call listening-as-birding: loving the process of scouring weird playlists and the Hype Machine queue. I loved defining myself through the act of finding music: it felt special and interesting and worthy.
“It felt” might make it sound like I no longer think it was, or that now in retrospect that time was cheap or shallow — it was special and interesting and worthy.
Especially compared to my relationship with music now. What do I even listen to now? Half of the time it’s lo-fi hip hop beats — essentially muzak with Cowboy Bebop samples. The other half of the time it’s something from a stable of ten or so albums that I find sessionable: comfortable, pleasant, ignorable.
Run The Jewels, CRJ, or Charly Bliss for uptempo moods; Coltrane or Bill Evans or Iron & Wind for more downbeat moods. Hell, I still revisit my same Spotify playlists that I built up four years ago, which feels somehow carceral: as if there is this part of me that has completely stagnated over the past few years.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this stagnation is true writ large. In 004 I talked about missing hobbies and habits from my past self, and I think this is more a case of transposition: I spend the time that I was actively engaged with music instead now actively engaged with reading. Instead of Pitchfork and The A.V. Club, I’m spending my time idly browsing the Kenyon Review and LARB.
…Which brings me back to your original question. I am, to the consternation of my partner, somewhat anti-collection. I am not quite full OMG minimalism / own experiences not things / digital nomad mode, but I think owning things is kind of a bother and annoying and I am in general a lazy person, which predisposes me to getting rid of stuff when it is in the way (like the clothes from 006.)
I’ve given away the majority of my books; my FLAC collection is probably on an old laptop in my closet but certainly not preserved in any meaningful sense; I delete video games and apps and have no bookmarks to speak of. I am perhaps the world’s worst collector and curator, with one exception: my antilibrary.
I am somewhat fond of my list of books, movies, and shows that I haven’t yet read:
I call this an antilibrary rather than a queue for two reasons.
Much as hitting “Save to Pocket” on an interesting article is a pleasant little lie that gives me a tiny endorphin boost every time I consign an article to the void, I feel oddly good about adding to my antilibrary. Maybe it’s a Sisyphean effort to contextualize the vastness of the universe; maybe it’s just a benign way to daydream of a world in which I have read the works of Goethe and seen the ouevre of Altman, and am somehow better for it. I have not done much self-examination on the subject: mostly I just browse it idly, on Saturday afternoons, looking for a book to pick up or a game to download.
Do you keep an antilibrary? If not, how do you decide what to read?