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I am downloading at least 10 Grateful Dead shows as I type this.

Some of them I already have. One or two I already know are so bad, thanks to Jerry Garcia’s prelaryngitic throat, that I might never want to hear them again.

But, ready or not, onto the external drive they go.

There are hundreds of Dead shows on this drive, along with:
many dozens of other bands’ shows
dozens of radio soundchecks, of varying lengths, from all over the U.S. and Canada
a whole bunch of online “mixtapes” from sites like Aquarium Drunkard
the complete organ repertoire of J.S. Bach
some well-chosen Bandcamp downloads
the raw files from my own Bandcamp uploads
a folder with at least two dozen songs modified to play backward
roughly a dozen old baseball radio broadcasts
all manner of other effluvia, like the symphonies the Havergal Brian Appreciation Society makes available for download because the original albums are no longer in print and there’s no other place to find them

The external drive isn’t full yet, either, though it’s probably 75 percent there and I’m starting to daydream about the next one.

(For one thing, the complete concert recordings of the Grateful Dead are being uploaded to year by year … and we’re only up to January 1978.)

Many of the things I’ve downloaded, I’ve never listened to all the way through. Some I’ve never even started. I just like the idea of them. What I need is some program that will just grab files from the drive at random and play them while I’m sitting at the computer writing things like this.

If the drive goes kablooey on me, I do not think I will blow my stack; I imagine I’ll just start new and resume my collecting.

(Just as likely is that I’ll start going deaf, and end up in a “Time Enough At Last” scenario where I have every sound in the world at my fingertips and no way to hear them. I maybe ought to start listening to some of this stuff, yes?)

I am a hoarder of sounds … and to make things worse, there are worlds I have yet to explore.

At this moment I also have a tab open to the Internet Archive home page, which keeps spinning off additional tabs the way a tree throws off leaves.

For lack of any firmer direction, I ran a search for 1973, then narrowed it down to the 2,969 audio files bearing that label. Among them:
more radio airchecks
a series of sound files from concerts of Indian music
the “alienating background music” performed for some sort of art installation in Amsterdam
a radio program produced for the 40th anniversary of Edgard Varese’s “Ionisation,” a percussion piece that influenced the young Frank Zappa
a reel-to-reel recording of uplifting Muzak produced for K-Mart stores
a whole raft of Bob & Ray radio shows
a live tape of a high school garage band from Atherton, California
recordings of a Long Island housewife who claimed to suffer holy visions and visitations
recordings of Chilean army radio broadcasts during the coup that deposed Salvador Allende
live tapes of a free-jazz band from Barcelona
audio of a teen summer theater production of “Bye Bye Birdie” in Port Washington, New York
an interview with William Gianelli, recapping his six years as head of the California Department of Water Resources

I would not necessarily download every last one of these snippets (at least a few are stream-only), but I would spend a few minutes out of my life getting to know most of them … and this is just part of one year’s collection.

The mundane? The bizarre? The pretentious? Sure, bring it all on. These are all soundtracks to some moment or another, and I’m not doing anything so interesting with my present-day existence that I can’t take a ride back there.

But not just yet … there isn’t time enough.


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