Voices from the Past

One the fascinating (to me) pieces of this “alphabetic CD tour” I do every few years is how many of these 1300-or-so albums still hold a place in my heart and my affections. I have different reasons for liking different things, but considering I started collecting CDs back in 1989 or so, it’s kind of surprising to me how infrequently I listen to a long-forgotten/rediscovered album and say to myself.

Eh. No longer my bag.

Given that, it’s kind of notable that in the last 2 weeks, I’ve come across not one, but two different artists/albums I’m thinking of adding to the Goodwill pile.

The first one is a definitive “let it go” choice: a recording of Dave Brubeck’s 1968 oratorio The Light in the Wilderness. I remember purchasing during a stretch when I was fascinated by late 20th-century experiments in blending classical music forms with popular entertainment genres.(1)

But when I listened to this CD a couple weeks ago, I started asking myself why the only Brubeck album in my collection was this one, rather than some of the genre-shaping work by the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

It’s not that I actively dislike Brubeck’s oratorio, but it’s not nestled in my heart the same way most of the rest of my CD collection has. Besides, the piece isn’t exactly linked to any faith tradition of mine, either.

So that was an easy decision for the Goodwill pile.


The next one I’m having more of an on-the-fence moment about: an anthology of Maria Callas arias.(2) I bought this back in my grad school/pre-dissertation days: the “La Mamma Morta” scene from Philadelphia led me to Wayne Koestenbaum’s The Queen’s Throat, which led me to this Callas biography, which led me to think that maybe after reading and hearing so much about her, I should perhaps actually listen to her own work.

But here’s the thing: I’m not much of an opera devotee, and I must shamefacedly admit that I can’t tell much of the difference between all the arias on this 2 CD set. Words I don’t understand, lots of turns and trills, razor-sharp tone, one ridonculously shrill high note at the end…..  There’s a palpable force there—of will, of personality—but it doesn’t really move me.

And yet I know she’s one of the great sopranos of her era. And I feel as if I should be more of an appreciator of opera than I am. So I’m feeling a little bit more guilt and internal conflict about the idea of taking this album out of my collection.

I know what Marie Kondo would tell me. I’m just gonna give myself a little bit of time to get comfortable with the idea.


(1) I remember discovering Richard Einhorn’s Voices of Light in this same stretch of musical exploration.

(2) Yes, dear reader: here in the fifth month of the year, I have finally crossed the border into the third letter of the alphabet.


Image credit: Flickr user Kenneth Lu via a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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