Title: In Memory Of…
Artist: Various Artists
Release Date: 02 December 2013
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Label: Aural Films
One of the things that we take for granted these days is the ability of the Internet to transform how we interact with our media. Yes, videos and memes go viral, stories get passed around, and there is a lot of digital interaction between people. However, these are fixed assets. Tomorrow the story and the video will be the same. Sure a different version of a meme or video might show up, but then it has been transformed and is a new or different object altogether. Various Artists – In Memory Of… is a living audio document. A tribute to the people that we have all lost at one time or another.
However, there are times when it is more appropriate to build something that changes over time. Most typically these have been the domains of specialist sites where a person or multiple people build a collection. Say of specific sports images, or a collection of poetry, or some other such specialized collection. One could argue that Tumblr has become the centralized gathering place for such collections, such as pictures of cats surrounded by money, or really bad real estate photography.
However, what if you took that concept, and applied to what was once the providence of a physical asset, like a CD? In the past a theme collection like ‘In Memory Of…’ would have been a multiple volume CD set, with new volumes being added as enough music was gathered (licensed) to make a new disk. Aural Films have chosen to go a different direction: building a living collection based on the theme of honoring those who are no longer with us. This collection will grow over time as artists submit new tracks with their interpretation of the theme. In fact, since my initial purchase of this collection, a new track by Wolfgang Gsell has been added to the collection.
This is a little bit of a tricky concept for me as a reviewer and listener. I like being able to say I have listened to a release, and review the release in its complete form. However, this will never be a complete collection. It will keep growing until some unseen force stops its continuation.
However, there is a positive side to this concept as well: you have a single collection to look at when you need something that fits this theme. You can pick and chose individual tracks from the collection to fit your needs and likes, and leave the rest of them in the collection. Certainly many of us do this already, but this just makes for an easily accessible place to find one such theme.
This has also started me on an internal debate with myself again over the value of artistic work. When I downloaded this release, I made a payment for the release. If I look at it now, there is an additional work, do I figure out what the average price per track was that I paid for the first 27 works, and apply that to the 28th? Do I listen to each of the tracks, assign a value to each and then submit that sum for the whole collection (and therefore try to individually assign a value to each new track that appears)? Should I weigh the value of each track by length, or by more aesthetic value?
This also challenges me on an artist level as well. I come from a time when the album was an art form itself. Recordings had beginning, middles and ends. Much in the way a novel, short story, or poem does. But this work is now like a never ending poem, or an open-ended story. There is no exact conclusion as new works are added.
And, if all that wasn’t enough, I’m almost drawn into a meta-philosophical debate with myself over whether any of these things make a difference, and if they do why? And, what effect does each of these debates, thoughts, and conundrums bear on writing a review of such a work?
So, I find myself drawn once again into a level of thought that is at most two-steps away from madness. It is a form of torture that cannot be resolved with easy or clear-cut answers (and trying to find those answers would likely be futile as there will likely be another work that will pose all the same questions again). Maybe I am just too involved in asking all these questions, but not intelligent enough to find a way to answer them.
Instead, I can make some statements about this release: it is a gorgeous collection. I could not find a weak track in all 28 (that includes the addition of the wonderful Wolfgang Gsell track, which I have just listened to this evening).
This is not a collection of mournful funeral dirges. It is a collection that is as wonderfully diverse as it is focused on the central concept. Themes of loss, honor, celebration, life, death and love are central to this collection. I couldn’t count the times I was moved to tears, felt the beat of pride in my heart, or the longing for someone I never even knew as I listened to this collection.
As monuments, this is as multifaceted as any statue ever erected to a hero. As for a biographer, this is as passionate as any love letter ever written. As a living document to the deceased, it is a truly inspiring accomplishment.