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As a youth, I marveled at my mother’s battered vinyl collection. “Mother,” I said, “Regard these culturally significant sounds that you have collected in vinyl format! Here—-the music of Black Sabbath! And this one—-Led Zeppelin IV! How can you leave these precious commodities to mold in our basement?”
“You will not always fetishize these commodities so,” my mother predicted.
“And why not?” I responded.
“You will move on from this trite commodity fetishization and enter an ‘anti-document’ phase,” my mother warned. “Do not doubt that your aesthetics will evolve!”
Though the age of digital downloading offers a commodity-free alternative to Edison’s wax cylinder, I do not necessarily endorse digital downloading. However, music-related commodities take up too much room in my house and mind. My mother was right—-I have entered an “anti-document” phase.
“Here is the documentation of our music on CD or vinyl,” a friendly representative of a band I have performed with might say after a show.
“Thanks,” I will say, and accept the document. My true reaction is harder to articulate in a loud nightclub environment. “I like your band,” I want to say. “However, you must not hold it against me if I leave this document of your music in a gas station. I support and respect your music, but don’t need any more music-related commodities in my house and mind. I encourage you to visit Washington, D.C. and perform live. I would attend your performance and house you and feed you. However, I am in an ‘anti-document’ phase, as my mother predicted. As a result, I spurn your document.”
I write about music-related commodities because I played the WLUW Record Fair in Chicago this week. This fair benefits the community-minded Chicago station WLUW 88.7 FM, a noble broadcast endeavor. The show was a fine one, held in a beautiful fieldhouse on a sunny Sunday afternoon. My other Chicago show at the Empty Bottle was 21+, and I was happy to play an alcohol-free, all-ages alternative for any youth who might have heard about my band on MySpace or YouTube. I hear that youth often visit these URLs.
However, as I performed, I noticed that some shoppers were paying more attention to music-related commodities offered for sale than to my band. Their indifference did not offend me. Perhaps these shoppers are jazz enthusiasts, I thought. I do not play jazz. Then, I identified the cause of the shoppers’ distracton: they were fawning over music-related commodities!
The hypnotizing power of these commodities is incredible, I thought. Yet, these commodities are only simulacra—-they are not the music itself. Still, these shoppers prefer their precious simulacra to the real thing! I finished the show in a state of wonder. Then, afterwards, I sold a few of my own commodities to waiting customers.
“This EP has six songs,” I said to one. “This 10-inch record is very old, but very good,” I said to another. Before loading out of the fieldhouse, I calculated my profits, grinning madly like Scrooge McDuck swimming in a pool of golden coins.