Storage Stories

Grant Chu Covell

[October 2005.]

A recent move necessitated a CD reshuffle. Mind, we didn’t relocate so that I could expand disc-storage capability. Family needs took precedence. In any event, each of two earlier moves occasioned the purchase of a basic CD bookcase from an outfit specializing in unfinished-pine consumables for students (http://www.bostonwood.com/). A few weekends ago I matched a pair of 32W x 62H units with a third. Each advertises space for 750 discs. The wooden trio sits snug along a top-floor wall, projecting a few inches in front of the knee-wall.

My collection is dispersed through the house in three categories: stuff I need to listen to, stuff I want to write about, stuff deserving permanent residence. Right now there’s a backlog waiting for upstairs storage, but first it needs to be catalogued. Years ago, during an afternoon between jobs (a hiatus not of my choosing), I cracked open FileMaker and designed my own database. (I’m not unaware that several software packages attempt to sort Classical collections.) I’ve categorized CDs by title, composer, work, performers and label. Space for comments helps relive a bargain hunter’s thrill. I entered Jürg Wyttenbach’s orchestral Scelsi (Accord 201112) first. A guilty pleasure when unemployed, I saw the data entry as an uphill struggle from which I’ve already profited: Searching by performer reveals on-shelf discoveries.

Until last month, I made do with a pair of these cases, despite hanging several linear yards of 1 x 6s between a pass-through (closet converted to hallway) for the overflow (the first two categories). And then there was that miraculous weekend when I gained what felt like acres by converting bulky bricks into slimmer double-CD cases on colleague Dan Davis’ tip. I’ve considered discarding all the jewel boxes, but I like the feel of the product’s heft. I actually miss the days when opening LPs briefly released that pungent factory smell (European LPs reeking of cigarettes). Besides, digipaks and designed blocks would then claim a disproportional amount of real estate. The Atelier Schola Cantorum brick spans 7-3/4″, dwarfing Solti’s Ring at 5-5/8″. Such is the cross the collector bears.

Alphabetical by surname is the dominant sorting method, chronology be damned (Ablinger starts). And yet I do enjoy seeing Feldman, Ferneyhough and Ferrari shoulder to shoulder. Discs representing multiple composers, but treasured for one track, are sorted by the favorite (Helios CDH55076 with clarinet quintets by Romberg, Fuchs and Stanford can be found between Frescobaldi and Furrer). After Z (B.A. Zimmermann), come the contempo collections (Darmstadt, Donaueschingen, etc.), then electroacoustic, then the grab-bag compilations devoted to a particular instrument, genre or geography. Historical discs next, then sound-effects, friends’ CDs, and so on to jazz, arranged chronologically. My own CD-Rs, extra jewel boxes and blank CD-Rs (fancy gold ones) occupy a few shelves at the end. Opera used to be segregated, but that was stupid.

LPs — yes, I own vinyl, even though the needle broke during the creation of a tape piece à la Christian Marclay several years ago — are consigned to a bottom shelf. Several pounds worth were re-routed before this move: budget LPs (Nonesuch, Vanguard, London STS), items reissued on CDs (the Juilliard Quartet’s Bartók), and some that I really would never listen to again (Karajan conducting Mozart). I couldn’t bear to part with the Supraphon Martinůs and Janáceks I lugged back from Prague. Played probably just once, they still have that cheap-cigar tang! Or a European Columbia release of Boulez’s first Webern edition. There’s also a still-shrink-wrapped 9″ capturing Jean Tinguely sculptures falling apart or blowing up. I even have some of my parents’ LPs, worn-out Beatles sides which aren’t even worth framing just for fun. Ebay tells me they’re worthless, except maybe for the German HorZu pressing of Help!

Each floor has its own audio setup: mismatched components flown to college and back, along with other cast-offs. I saved the original packaging, perversely trusting my valuables to the postal service’s tender mercies. A recent yard-sale find, a fully operational Kenwood KR-7400 receiver for just $5, crowns the LPs’ bookcase, with a late-1980s CD player on top. All told, plenty of space for growing and pruning. Until the next move.