Gotham Diary:
Project Management
4 October 2012

Since the superior repairman departed yesterday, at about 1:35 (he’d been promised for nine-to-noon, and arrived a few seconds before one), the dishwasher has run through two cycles without event, but I still don’t quite trust it. By the time I forget to worry about it — that’s when it will break down again.

This leaves one item on the list of things to be done requiring other people: moving the stuff that we saved from the balcony (chairs, a bench, and boxes of plastic bricks for the flooring) from our storage unit on 62nd Street to a new, smaller one way up in Inwood. This has been penciled in for Monday, even though it’s a holiday for many New Yorkers (not for Kathleen, though), and I’ve got to confirm it this morning. We’ll be sending some other bulky items uptown as well, so the older unit will be almost roomy. More important, two closets in the apartment will open up, when I transfer the drawers of Kathleen’s craft supplies to 62nd Street.

Because the mess in the blue room can’t really be dealt with until the closets are empty, I passed the afternoon organizing our jazz library, something that had gone untouched after a rousing spurt several years ago. I don’t know jazz nearly as well as I know classical music, and I haven’t been very creative with the iTunes playlists; in fact, until yesterday, I had done nothing more than dump all of Keith Jarrett’s trio recordings into a shuffle along with performances by other small groups. It was only the other day that I realized that serious jazz is far more album-centered than classical or pop. Right now, I’m listening to The Comedy, a suite of pieces inspired by commedia dell’arte, written, I suppose, by John Lewis, and played by the Modern Jazz Quartet. These are not cuts to be played out of order, much less shuffled in with other stuff. I might just as easily listen to the CD, but when The Comedy comes to an end, I’ll see if I want to hear one of the many other albums that I loaded onto a Nano yesterday. If I want to hear something else, I have only to upload it from this machine to the Nano.

It has taken years of working with playlists to learn how to do this: how to treat jazz properly, and not like other kinds of music. That said, I’ve ordered Project Management for Dummies. It occurred to me the other day that that’s what housekeeping is: a Project needing Management.  


I don’t know how many CDs I have, but it is a great many. As long as ten years ago, it was clear that, unless I wanted to pretend that walls of CD shelving might be regarded as decorative, I had to find some other way of housing the collection. The collections, that is: The operas, the classical CDs, the jazz, the pop, and the curiosities (such as a recording of Jessica Mitford singing “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” — this is the fun part of my library, and it is not small). I should certainly have to lose the jewel boxes. I don’t know whether I hit on a good system before or after I began to use iTunes, but it’s almost complete on the classical front. There are about a hundred classical CDs still to be uploaded into the computer library and then broken down into paper and disc and filed in the appropriate drawer. (It took years to hit on the right way of doing this as well. Having removed everything from the jewel box, I lay down the top matter, the booklet it usually is, then the disc in its new paper sleeve, and finally the back matter, with its handy spine flaps, all oriented so that the flap covers and protects — sort of — the sleeve and the booklet, while presenting a legible label at the top. This would not be a viable system if I needed frequent access to the discs; the back matter’s paper would begin to tear in no time.) 

In the storage unit at 62nd Street, there are about a hundred LPs, perhaps more. I don’t have anything to play them on, but when I did, and attempted to render a few of them into MP3 files, the results were not satisfactory. They say that “vinyl” is valuable now, but I don’t believe that that holds for bread-and-butter classical recordings. A preference for LPs in this day and age strikes me as preposterously affected. I’ve thought long and hard about why I prefer MP3 files to the old analog recordings, and I’ve concluded that I never had much use for sense of “presence,” the capture of the acoustic peculiarities of the recording space. Perhaps because I overdosed on Mantovani at a tender age, I’m not thrilled by luscious string sonorities or other kinds of ear candy. (And, when I want ear candy, I know where to get it: Harold Faltermeyer.) My taste in music is somewhat more abstract, and MP3s simply sound clearer and less cluttered to me. Even in some extremely familiar music, music that I’ve been listening to for fifty years, I’ve heard things — inner lines of counterpoint, mostly — for the first time in MP3 format. When I think of listening to vinyl, all I can imagine is the surface noise — the clicks, purls, and distortions — that I always found terribly distracting. As soon as I can get to them, the LPs are going to HousingWorks.