Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Now, This Strange Effect

It's time to teach my child about value and resources. We need to leave for work and school in the morning, minding the constant clock. The time can be spent on procrastination, or on the tasks at hand. We use cotton balls that progressively disappear, because she can't quite wrap her mind around the abstraction of 7:30 yet. She's learning that the present must sometimes be spent on the future. It is the beginning of the death of childhood: a death which is, like all deaths, death. But also it is the beginning of freedom, of agency, of life.

Of this pick, Frances said, "I picked this because it has a sheep without... I mean, a cow without a head." Does it ever! This confounding piece is all experience, all surface. What appears to have happened is that the record store I got it from (it's been 20 years now, and the early 90s are hazy, but I know I was mostly shopping at Mystery Train and In Your Ear in Harvard Square back then. The object is not inconsistent with their vibe. I also may have gotten it that one time I went to RRRecords in Lowell) had this amazing object, a 78rpm disc with a handwritten label identifying the musical group as "De Zingende Miljonairs" (that's Dutch for The Singing Millionaires, right? Or German?) and they just went on and blammed out this mind-scramble of a cover.

So yes, headless cow. The "title": "Disco Music". Also: "Met de Hit Bookhit" (for years and years I said it in my head as "book shit" - no idea why my brain saw that). The back ups the drama: "Now this strange effect: This stereo album can also not be played". The cherry on top: they did it on a Santana cover turned inside out (Borboletta, the one with the shiny blue butterfly cover).

It's true, by the way: I can't play it. Technology has moved on and I don't have a turntable that goes to 78, or a stylus that won't damage the surface. Those singing Euro-millionaires are tantalizing me just out of reach.

(It's not true that it's stereo, or that it's an album. But: art confounds.)

About a year ago, I read this piece by Natalie Hopkinson taking off from Paulo Nazareth's work "Banana Market/Art Market" at the 2011 Art Basel Miami Beach show (the money quote: "Sounds like a lot of bullshit to me"). We do a lot of hand-wringing, as a culture, over the unholy coupling of art and hedge-fund managers, the outsourcing of decisions about the value of experience.

To me, it seems that a key aspect of the issue is an over-reliance on received opinion. Gnarly too, and intimately bound up in this problem, is the conflation of monetary value with experiential value, and this is the aspect of the problem that I've witnessed from the front row, via record stores (speaking of which, I just love this whole tumblr, and this particular post really captures the experience of running a store and buying used records from people better than almost anything I've ever read). Look: records are perfect. Like anything that's pefect, they are misunderstood, and sometimes, people over- or undervalue this or that aspect of their perfection. They deliver music. People love music. Before there were "easier" ways to get music, that was a pillar of their value. Now, us record lovers find other excuses to charge insane prices, like:

They deliver beauty.

They deliver documentation.

They confer status.

I mean, these are convincing arguments.

So many things that records do, in only that one particular way. Beware though, lest you tie up too much of your own self-worth in whatever value you perceive these things to have. Value is slippery, intangible. In this absurd time, art can be a sounder investment than the stock market.

As the eternal moment continues to unfold, your task remains: what do you want to do? You can experience your life, or you can store up that experience for future use. You can model your experience on that of others, or you can decide that the activities you want to do are worth doing.

Look out for the free market: it will fill you with anxiety so you have no choice but to store for the future. One never knows when want will strike. In giving you this anxiety, the free market will deprive you of present experience.

A sheep without... I mean, a cow without a head.

Now, this strange effect: this stereo album can also not be played.

The Singing Millionaires.

Disco Music.


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