Several years ago, Alison’s family proposed a Christmas CD exchange. You remember CD’s. They are those silver discs (shaped like DVD’s) that music was put on before the advent of the iPod and other portable media devices. The Christmas CD idea was fairly simple. Put together some music you like, make enough copies for the people in the family (typically just those possessing the Y chromosome participate), distribute, and enjoy.
As you can imagine, what had a humble enough beginning has taken on a life of its own.
Over the years, unspoken rules began to be codified.
Here’s an example…
No limits on how many songs from a particular artist.
It is frowned upon to use too many songs from one artist or band.
Your CD submission will be roundly mocked and subject to public scorn if there is more than one song per artist.
Just use what you like regardless of when it was released.
Just use music that you came to appreciate in the previous year.
All songs must have been released during the calendar year or it becomes subject to immediate disqualification.
While on the subject of disqualification… every year, we make the disclaimer that it isn’t a competition. And yet, given that the participants are all male… well, you understand. Apparently, the goal has become to produce the coolest (and we all have an innate sense of what constitutes “cool”) music of the previous year. The more obscure the better. In fact, if it is possible that you are the only other person in the whole world who has heard of this artist, your score goes way up.
(Wait! This isn’t a competition!)
Add to all this a host of other issues: There must be at least one rap song to give the disc any street cred. The permissibility of cover songs is something of a gray area. Careful consideration must be given to track arrangement. And so on.
Also, the exchange has grown. It started as an intramural affair with a mere four or so discs at first that needed to be produced. Now, I easily make about twenty per year, which requires the use of the disc duplicator at my place of employment. Special cases are purchased instead of paper sleeves. An annotated track listing displaying depth and wit accompanies the CD. I’m sure you get the idea. I would like to be able to point the finger at someone else in the family that over-stepped their boundaries, but I fear that I bear a sizable portion of the blame for the monstrosity that this thing has become.
I think 2008 will officially be the year that broke the camel’s back. Not only was all the above true, but the end result on my part was not one but three different CD’s. Technically, 2 and 1/2, because one CD was a joint venture with my comrade-in-arms.
I’m of the opinion that the whole idea needs to be re-thought. Drastic measures need to be taken to return to a more innocent and pure expression of our appreciation of music. No more multi-volume compilations. No more combing the internet for that undiscovered band. No more mass production of hundreds of CD’s that are eventually going to go the way of the landfill. No more sizing up each others’ compilations by the familiarity or lack of familiarity with the music.
Who wants to join the revolution?
Yeah, me neither.