Perhaps the whole musical experience can be summed up in one scene from the film ""High Fidelity."" Championship Vinyl owner Rob Gordon is violently reorganizing his personal music collection. Walls and walls of old vinyl records are scattered haphazardly across the floors, leaving nowhere to walk between the stacks of records and Rob's bitter nostalgia. Rob is organizing the records autobiographically, picking up his memories and slotting them back in place.
There's a sense of vindication in the act, a feeling that everything can be restored and understood by simply taking another look at our record collections. I try to do it once every year with the same result. I never finish because nostalgia prevails and diverts me to an old Smiths vinyl a friend gave me years ago, or a Talking Heads record I thought I had lost. I notice general trends though, blocks of old blues and jazz sharing shelf space with T-Rex and Elvis Costello, trends allowing a look back into how I used to look at the world.
""When you look at someone's record collection, you're looking at a huge slice of their life,"" Ron Roloff, owner of Strictly Discs on Monroe said.
Roloff doesn't have his own record collection at home to sort through because his collection is Strictly Discs. In a push to acquire vinyl, Roloff has spent days going through other people's record collections, mapping their experiences record by record. His store thrives on fond memories of Charlie Parker and Bob Dylan. This Saturday, we all get to take a more extensive look at his collection as part of the third annual Record Store Day.
Record Store Day is a celebration of the medium between human and music. Music is the only art form we can transport with us everywhere. We can superimpose it over any experience, like enlarging a photograph in a dark room. When we do this, the moment becomes ours, weaved into the narrative of our lives, and we can go back to it. Music acts as a conduit back to memories, like Rob Gordon.
Record Store Day is a day to revel in oddities and high fidelity, to drink in the culture and peek in on the artistic process. Music is more than songs and albums; it is an experience.
""The value of music should come from the individual,"" said Roloff. ""It's a place and time. It soothes the soul.""
Artists take pride in helping out record stores for the day. Many of them started as audiophiles themselves, hanging out in record stores, perfecting the art of the mixtape. This year Peter Gabriel and Bon Iver are sharing a 7-inch, and the Stones are putting out an unreleased track from the raucous Exile on Main St. Menomena returns with a sleeper of a single, and Phoenix keeps piling it on with a colorful-release ""Fences"" single. Most exclusive releases are on wax, and for good reason.
""There is a physicality to music. When I hold a CD, I hold it between my thumb and forefinger, in a really flippant way. I would hold an LP like I were hugging it,"" said Roloff.
This all adds to the experience. Record Store Day takes the time to focus on personal accounts, helping move music beyond the cruddy hum of an MP3 and into a more lively landscape.