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The Thaddeus Gazette

The Librarian In The Dell


I started making my own musical albums back in the 80's as a benighted pasty-white street-performing jazzbo with a hot blues mama sidekick, mainly as a way to score a few extra bucks on the pitch. I got good enough at it (barely) to entertain orders from other musicians for their own merch. And despite the rollercoaster economy and the waxing and waning of demand for one or another form of entertainment, over the years I kept at it, until, like any activity you just keep doing, eventually I became an Old Hand.

But now, in the twilight of my midlife and the bloody dawn of my old age, I've encountered an entirely unintended consequence of my putterings. Without meaning to, I have somehow blundered into the role of librarian.

One of the side effects of being a CD replication service is having to keep track of a godzillion (okay, maybe 500) repro projects past, present and hypothetical, from one-shot wonder cassette transfers to full-tilt record, mix, master, burn and package behemoths (okay, maybe "behemoth" is too strong a word there...). It takes all kinds to make a budget. And although it's never explicitly stated, one of my unofficial tasks is to retain, right along with the production masters, all the riffraff and leftovers of these little gems, outtakes, unused head shots, leftover logos, provisional designs that were later rejected or modified beyond recognition, and on and on. I have to — somebody might need it someday. It's not especially common, but every now and then I get a call from a half-forgotten customer of some mystic earlier time asking if I still have the layout for their high school reunion CD or whatever it was. Since word of mouth is still my most potent advertising, it behooves me, or at least my wallet, to demonstrate my more-than-professional concern for their satisfaction by being ready for such exigencies.

But more than this: music, speech, the atmospheric compression waves we sense with our cochleae, our hammer and anvil and stirrup, are surely the most ephemeral of creations, even in this quicksilver world of endless decay and regeneration. And each of these undertakings entrusted to my tender mercies represents, at least nominally, the desire on the part of someone to materialize their audio information in a form more durable than the mere breath in the air that sound is, whether it be a belayed attempt to resurrect fair departed youth or a longing for one more threadbare grab at the tarnished brass ring of glory before the band organ wheezes to silence and the painted ponies grind to a halt. Even if the content is dross (and it's all dross), that thirst for even a tiny morsel of immortality deserves respect and the minimal veneration of preservation, or at least curation.

Thus, the Chickadee Dell Freelance Digital Audio Archives and Home For Wayward Garden Implements.

The good news is that this dross is (almost always) digital, and hence takes up very little space in my office. On my hard drives, however... While even a minuscule Real Company Really would scoff at my pitiful dinky five-terabyte backup drive, to me that's a Warehouse 13's worth of space, and it's being filled with data with ominous rapidity. Apparently my cohort, which represents my chief client base, has reached the point in their lives' journeys where leaving traces of their existence is a matter of more than passing interest, a circumstance which has not failed to arouse the attention of the rapidly waning but still highly motivated repro industry, of which I account myself an exceedingly small (but doughty!) part. One streaming management service, providing mere civilians the privilege (for a price) of being included in the inventory of the big music streaming combines, even has a feature they term "legacy": for an additional fee, they'll make sure your stuff is still streaming after you're long since passed on to join that Big Pickin' Party In The Sky, at least until they or the streamers go out of biz.

Which is by no means to say that I'm not more than passingly interested in the subject myself. I've been assiduously recording my puny creative efforts for a long time now, forty years or more not counting all the crap I did in my Paleozoic childhood after being introduced to the wonders of the Webcor monophonic tape recorder at the age of 7 or so. I even put out a two-CD retrospective a while back, decades of aimless noodling, three years afterwards going back and adding another CD's worth of swill to it, with a fourth no doubt to come. Shameless is not my middle name, but it could be. I'm not entirely sure of my actual motivations, but despite making a significant profit on at least a couple of limited run cassette projects with Amber Tide, moolah has seldom been a significant engine of my innate need to birth musical progeny. I pay that very company I mentioned to keep my songs in play (100 steams and counting! $.0001 here I come!), and if they show any signs of stability I might even dip into my cookie jar to lock in my sketchy output.

In truth, what I'm doing here, right along with a hundred million of my closest friends, is an instantiation of a uniquely (on this planet, at least) human behavior: that aforementioned desire to leave a mark, a trace, a clue, however fleeting, however ephemeral, however futile, of the existence of an individual consciousness, of eyes that see, ears that hear, and a wetware-based sensorium that reflects and refracts it in unremitting, sadly foreshortened solitude. It's the impulse that raises Taj Mahals and pyramids, paints intricate and subtle portraits, inscribes deathless prose, cries out with the voices of devils and angels through instruments of music and attempts to notate the results, and scribbles Kilroy was here on bathroom walls.

It's a dirty lousy thankless job, but somebody has to do it.

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