My mom brought me boxes of my old cassette tapes. The tapes range from 1996-2003, recorded from the ages 13-20. An archive from another lifetime, when I wanted to be a famous musician. My six-year-old has been sticking random tapes into the four-track, listening for drums and other stuff he could sample for his own songs.
I doubt he finds anything worthy.
I used to look at all those tapes and see a waste of time — what good was all that to a writer! — but now I see years spent dedicated to a creative task, learning what it’s like to practice and study and steal and share and try to express yourself and bring something new into the world. That time is never lost.
Plus, it was something to do.
Meanwhile, my stack of diaries fell over yesterday, like a cheap metaphor:
3 stories about the fates of musical archives posted in the past 2 days:
1) The 2008 Universal fire turned out to be “the biggest disaster of the music business,” destroying masters by Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, John Coltrane, and on and on and on.
“The negative was lost,” says a source close to the Dylan Camp. “Which [was] really horrifying. Part of the problem with corporations the days is all the consolidation. And in the consolidation of our storage system, somehow the numbering system fell off. There was just no way to find the negative — and we looked. Man, did we look. Now everything is in Iron Mountain. We went there and just couldn’t find it. It’s really sad. My worst fear is it’ll turn up tomorrow. For all we know, its sitting in some collector’s basement.”
3) Thom Yorke’s minidisc archive from the OK Computer era (1995-1998) was hacked, so instead of paying the hacker’s ransom, Radiohead released 18 hours of the recordings on Bandcamp.
It pleases me to look at Yorke’s minidiscs, and then look at my cassettes, and think how one archive contains treasure and the other trash. (“it’s not v interesting / there’s a lot of it,” wrote Yorke. “Yeah, right,” thought I.)
But, despite their wildly different results, both archives were made with essentially the same effort: We hit RECORD and tried to make a noise that pleased us.
Now my six-year-old presses RECORD and tries the same.
Another archive begins.