My Vinyl Record Collection
2011-07-26 — Original posting (on Blogger)
2014-10-27 — Re-posting as is (WordPress)
2016-06-19 — Brushed up for better readability
Table of Contents
As mentioned in an earlier blog entry, my first two LPs (both Beethoven) were Xmas gifts by my parents, back in 1967. The following year (the year I started at high school in Aarau) I received 3 more LPs. Then, I started doing vacation jobs, earning some money for the first time, and at the same time I got the “smell of buying LPs”: for the following years, essentially all the money that I earned during my vacation jobs went into LP purchases.
What was my guide in collecting LPs? Well, as I was listening to classical music on the radio just about all the time, I came across plenty of music that “talked to me”. Unfortunately, LPs at that time were expensive (CHF 25 – 35, regular price). But prestigious recordings weren’t the issue then: I registered for a “subscription with choice” with a cheap, local label, where every month one could (but didn’t have to) select one out of 10 recordings at a special price (around CHF 12). Just about every month there was something that caught my interest.
Sound quality etc. wasn’t an issue either, given my modest equipment: 1970/71 a classmate took me to Zurich on the backseat of his Vespa, where I purchased my first components of a home stereo equipment. Before that, I think I had my turntable attached to a “steam radio” box. So, the artists and the quality of the recordings was pretty much random. What mattered was the music, and I enjoyed that very much, more than playing the violin with my limited abilities!!
I soon started adding bigger “chunks” to my collection. I did not want to listen to specific Beethoven piano sonatas: being a bit of an encyclopedic nature, I wanted them all. My first such recording was with Friedrich Gulda (from 1970). Similarly, I added all Beethoven symphonies, starting with the Klemperer recording from 1957. At one point I considered purchasing the Beethoven 1970 jubilee edition by DG (some 70 LPs for around CHF 1200). That was when I started to be somewhat selective: I chose some of these boxes, but stayed away from others (e.g., the Karajan symphonies, the piano sonatas with Kempff, etc.) that I wasn’t interested in.
Broadening on Interpretations
On the other hand, I started adding “parallel” interpretations, e.g., a second (Backhaus) and third set (Schnabel) of all Beethoven piano sonatas. I added “depth”, while at the same time expanding the width of the collection, to cover anything from Gregorian Chant up to music by Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Purchases over the Years
At the end of my high school time (1972) I must have had around 250 LPs. My classmates were joking that I was aiming at matching our Latin teacher’s collection of 12,000 LPs! This again was not the issue, of course, nor even a remotely interesting goal (no idea how one can possibly mentally keep up with such a huge music collection!). Still, the peak growth in my collection was between 1973 and 1981. This was essentially my time at the university, up to the beginning of my Ph.D. time. Over the following years up to 1987 the number of acquisitions rapidly went down. Once we moved to Germany in 1986 (for 6.5 years), my collection remained frozen. Here’s a graph illustrating the yearly LP purchases:
The final slowdown had two reasons: for one, the LP market was rapidly drying out with the advent of the CD. More importantly, my job involved heavy travel activities. Plus, we had two children (1984 and 1986). This essentially no longer allowed spending much time with my stereo equipment. Actually, I had to secure my collection in order to prevent the kids from playing frisbee with my LPs. And this mechanical securing of my rack also made it more cumbersome for me to pull out some of the LPs.
Sadly, this has more or less remained the status ever since, also after our return to Switzerland in 1992. Securing the collection is no longer needed, but then came the period when the kids wanted to watch TV, plus, my job didn’t give me much free time to sit in the living room & listen to music. Finally, when we renovated our living room in 2007, I didn’t even care to put my stereo equipment back in, so the LP collection is currently pure decoration.
It looks like listening to LP recordings for me is history. Of course I still do listen to music, but now from CD, or rather from my computer (more about that in an upcoming blog entry). The LP collection is still there, of course. It now features around 1800 LPs, occupying a fair amount of space. Actually, we are desperately looking for some place to put it, as once it returns from revision, our little grand piano is going to consume that space. We’ll see what solution we’ll (hopefully!) have in a couple weeks. [Note: I ended up putting the collection into the basement.]
Organizing the Collection
Occasionally, when our kids or Lea were looking for a specific LP, they were typically asking “where is XYZ in your collection? I can’t find anything here!”. Typically I would respond “well, the sorting is all logical: at the top left there’s the medieval music, and in the bottom right there’s the music of the 20th century!”. In fact, from the very beginning I was sorting my LPs chronologically (i.e., by the composer’s birth date) rather than alphabetically. I now do the same with my CDs: the chronological order just makes much more sense to me. See also my next blog entry.
An Early, “Analog” Database
Very early in my collecting activities I started keeping detailed records about my LPs. This was before private individuals (let alone poor students like myself!) got access or could afford computers. So, I purchased a used, old, but robust typewriter (Remington Noiseless Model 10) and meticulously started logging my collection, one work per ISO A5-size card (with exceptions, e.g., a single card covered a collection of all Beethoven symphonies with a given conductor).
Each LP had a number, and in a separate card set I kept a record of all LPs by number (one LP per line, 10 LPs per card).
Later, I added a third set of (ISO A6-size) cards, one card per artist, listing all numbers of the LPs on which that artist is performing. Of course I knew my collection inside out, so rarely would really need to look up things in the database. However, soon after I had perfected that registry system, LP purchases came to a grinding halt (see above), and the LP collection became static! On the bright side, I now do have some limited use for the card registry, in connection with my CD collection. I’ll return to that topic later!