I recently read this Salon article about the demise of record-store culture (or maybe, to be more magnanimous, its evolution in the digital age), and it made me recall something I wrote in reaction to watching the movie High Fidelity. Here it is:
“Record stores hold a special place in my heart, and that movie hit me, because I know that scene pretty well. I’ve dated both the John Cusack and the Jack Black characters and I’ve been in that record store. I’ve spent hours in places like that and at geeky collector events in dingy hotel convention halls, killing time and poking around while those kinds of guys hunt for the Japanese vinyl import of Van der Graaf Generator‘s third album.
I know that if your boyfriend is a serious record collector, the fact that he opened his first-pressing King Crimson albums (that he’s never played for anyone EVER, not even himself) to make you a mixtape is a more important gesture than any flowers or jewelry or nights on the town. I know now, more than I knew then, that expressions of love can sometimes be unconventional, and that that doesn’t make them any less real. I learned a lot about music and about life from those guys, and along the way I became a pretty obsessive music collector myself. And I still have that mixtape. I found it the other day, and although I have no way to listen to it anymore, I cherish it and its carefully labeled case. All those tiny printed titles of songs that meant so much to him he was willing to break his own rules to share them.
But things change, I guess. Brandon, MB (where I used to live) doesn’t even have a record store anymore and around here guys like that become accountants, or something. I miss them both.”
I do miss them, but since I wrote that I’ve thought about the many ways community can still be found and built on the Internet. There are still opportunities to discover new music and people who love it–maybe more now than ever before. It’s a different way of searching, and a different kind of serendipity is involved in the discovery of the things you love and the people who share that love, but they’re all still out there. I know from personal experience that they are. But the best of both worlds is meeting these people in real life and maybe hanging out at a record store. I hope that’s always possible.