Wax Trash and Vinyl Treasures : Record Collecting as a Social Practice

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Wax Trash and Vinyl Treasures : Record Collecting as a Social Practice by Roy Shuker Ashgate, 2010, 223pp, $100.

In recent years I've defended the fact that most jazz books have been written by academics. The obvious suspicions readers have of them is that the language might be unclear and the authors simply haven't enough musical grounding. Fair arguments perhaps, but not valid ones with most academic books. However, this book stumbles a bit because the author is simply unaware of the main collectors' avenues of the 20th Century.

Admittedly, the purpose of the book is a tall order and it would be impossible to please every knowledgeable collector of a certain age or older. But there's no mention of the main magazines disseminating jazz disc knowledge, publications that every collector would have sought out for advice. So, you won't find insights into Record Changer, Esquire, Metronome, or the IAJRC Journal.

Still, there is much is that we would recognise. Many collectors happen to have worked in the music biz, as players, label staff, graphic artists or radio presenters and they each get a look in here. But author Roy Shuker offers few real insights.

He feels that classical cats 'valorized the aesthetic qualities' of sessions, yet the followers of pop and jazz 'valued scarcity' and 'authenticity'. I should think that all collectors valued all three criteria, but perhaps my optimism is atypical. The aesthetic value of bad records is unacknowledged because those of us who have spent years flexing our ears can and do learn as much from a session that curdles as from a real cooker.

The collectibles in more commercial music aren't represented well and the same goes for jazz. The author should've had collector friends point out the landmark collector magazines. Did he know about the jazz periodicals that have nudged the collectors along the decades, such as Record Changer, Metronome, Jazz Journal International and Coda? …


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