Musical packrat?

I have a large music collection (11,800+ songs, 83 gigabytes), but not the biggest in the world. I have at least one friend who, despite still having many hundreds of CDs he hasn’t imported into his digital collection, makes my digital music library look small.

No, what usually freaks people out is the size of my Christmas music collection: 9.8 gigabytes, or 1980 songs. That’s enough music that, if I just tried to listen to it all non-stop, it would take more than 4½ days.

I know that’s a lot.

So, how do I manage that? I have lots of playlists. Some of them are for certain moods. Some of them are for certain styles of music. Every complete album also has its own playlist (this is originally because of a quirk of the music management software, but I’ve found it continues to be useful). I often pick a long playlist early in the day, put it on shuffle, and listen to it as background music while I commute and at work.

The last couple of years I’ve made a temporary playlist that is simple any Christmas music I haven’t listened to in years (according to last-played date in iTunes) and spent at least a couple of days working through that list. It’s a way to hear old stuff. Of course, it’s also a way to remember that some times an album has a song or two that you don’t like.

My digital collection started out as all my old CDs imported, and a quick check of the shelves indicates that the Christmas library started with about 140 discs. Most of those are albums. A lot of them were originally released on vinyl long, long ago. A lot of them are compilations of singles released by singers or bands, in some cases I bought them primarily because of a single track that I’d been seeking for a long time. So it isn’t surprising that one or two of the tracks on some of the compilations are ones I don’t like.

Even the discs that were originally composed as an album by a particular musician will include a track I don’t like.

I’ve deleted a couple of really awful tracks from the digital collection. In one case, I deleted it seconds after iTunes had imported the rest of the disc, that’s how much I dislike the song.

Others haven’t been deleted for a variety of reasons. One thing I miss from the old days of having to insert a physical disc into a player is the song that you didn’t like the first time I listened to an album, but that over time, and I hear it again and again, it grows on me, an sometimes becomes my favorite track on the album.

There are other ways that a song can go from “meh” to treasure. For example, one of my late husband Ray’s favorite Christmas songs was one I didn’t like much back when he was alive. He always sang along with it, and usually got a little bit tears-eyed while singing it. So I never told him I didn’t much care for it. To me, it was a kind of a “Blue Christmas” knock off. He loved it, so I didn’t comment.

Then, the first time it came up on a shuffle play after he died, I found myself bawling my eyes out, and couldn’t stop for several songs after. Part of it is that I can’t hear the song without seeing his eyes brimming with tears. Another part is that the song is about trying to survive Christmas without someone you love. So it becomes a double-whammy. And it still is. The song came up when I wasn’t expecting it a couple weekends ago, while I was cleaning the big window in the living room prepped to hang Christmas lights, and I turned into a blubbering mess, again.

Not that I expect many more songs to transform meaning in precisely that way for me, but there are other songs whose meaning and significance has changed for me over the years, so, since bytes on hard disk aren’t exactly in short supply, I don’t feel a compelling reason to go on a digital purge, just yet.

[TRIGGER WARNING: References to torture, child abuse, and sexual assault. Heavy use of sarcasm. Proceed with caution.]

Note: Whenever I write about Christmas music, someone feels compelled to write to me about their traumatic experience, usually in a retail job, being forced to listen to Christmas music when they didn’t want to.

That’s nice. Really, it is.

I don’t want to hear it.

No, that’s not true. It’s not merely that I don’t want to hear it.

Comparing having previously worked at a place that played bad Christmas muzak to psychological trauma trivializes the experiences of people who have survived sexual abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, or bullying.

You don’t have to like Christmas music. Even if you hang out with me, you aren’t likely to be forced to listen to it, because I try to keep it to my headphones unless I already know that the other people with me are willing to give it a listen. But me listening to my Christmas music doesn’t impinge on you in any way.

And reading a blog post about Christmas music? Give me a break!

Next, you’ll be telling me that your objection is actually about ethics in gaming journalism.

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