Friday, September 28, 2007

ISSUES FOR IDIOTS -- Where do you find the carnival of free music? Your local library.

That's right. Libraries these days are also in the music CD business, and the DVD business too.

Hey, it's all there waiting for you... beckoning you... and you might as well get something out of your tax dollars, right? Typically, the larger the library system is, the more you'll have to choose from; so you might do a little homework, especially if you're not near a large city. I'm in the Seattle area, and use the King County Library System rather than a local city system. I do know that libraries can lend among one another, but I've never looked into that---that's where some cost might come into play...

...but what does all this typically it cost? Absolutely nothing, unless you draw up late fees; which is hard to do since you can usually renew items online and in most cases have them checked out for 3 months at a time (assuming nobody else is waiting for them). Of course, I've still managed to do it, but I'm a swiss cheese brain. After all, I leave rare Rush posters in airports for no reason other than to make my life more complicated when I go back in search of them...

The lending library system is how I dove into jazz four years ago. I didn't just go out and purchase jazz CDs at random (even if I did have that kind of cash, I'd never do that), I checked them out through the local library to see what I liked and what I didn't like. I started with Ken Burns' DVD documentary on jazz, and then discovered there were best-of compilations issued from the documentary of the 22 "Jazz Giants," as Burns put it. That was an excellent starting point, and then I branched out from there.

With no library system, I would not be the huge Ornette Coleman fan I am today. I wouldn't have discovered the stunning magic of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew. I wouldn't have discovered Andrew Hill, my all-time favorite jazz pianist. I can't emphasize enough how many gems would have gone undiscovered without the library.

I will go as far as saying the American library system, in terms of music, changed my life... probably with books too, but definitely with music. My life is richer and more fulfilling because of the library system.

I've made the same kinds of discoveries with classical music, opera, country, bluegrass, odd forms of world music, and I've expanded my rock & roll palate. This is how I dove deeper into Neil Young. This is how I worked my way chronologically through the Dylan catalog (painfully at times, I might add) to see what all the fuss was about with him. While I'm not a huge Dylan fan, I am now familiar with all his work and can appreciate the contributions he made to music... all, again, at no cost.

So who do we have to thank for this lending library system we have? I believe that would be Benjamin Franklin, who either came up with the idea or at least recycled an idea and put it into play back in the good 'ol days.

My only complaint, in the case of my local library, would be that I'm limited to having 100 items checked out at a given time... and none of the items are in gift wrapping either, because it certainly feels like my birthday every time I walk in to explore and peruse all this free music... and there's no cheerleaders, nor fireworks, to dance around and go off---because for some reason I always feel like celebrating when I leave with a full bag of CDs---again, for free! Yippie!!!

How does that song go? "It's yer birthday---it's yer birthday---it's yer birthday..." S

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