There was a great piece in the Times this weekend about Jim O’Rourke, who apparently moved to Japan in 2005 because America makes him sad, and who apparently has a new record out today, even though the internet doesn’t seem to have it in stock. It’s called The Visitor, and O’Rourke somehow convinced the folks at his longtime label, Drag City Records, not to sell it as a digital download. He’s worked out the same deal for all of his records, in fact, and here’s why:
“You can no longer use context as part of your work,” he said, glumly, “because it doesn’t matter what you do, somebody’s going to change the context of it. The confusion of creativity, making something, with this Internet idea of democratization …” he trailed off, disgusted. “It sounds like old-man stuff, but I think it’s disastrous for the possibilities of any art form.”
Widespread downloading has certainly made the decontextualization of art—and specifically music—a more glaring problem of late, but if the idea here is that downloading music renders things like sequencing and cover art pretty much meaningless, well, I seem to recall spending my teenage years and a portion of my 20s walking out of my local record store, getting into my car, taking the plastic off the case, putting the CD in the stereo, tossing the packaging into the backseat, and then skipping from song to song if I wasn’t immediately grabbed—which sounds like some serious fucking decontextualization to me, long before the internet came along.
All that said, I’m going to send an intern to the store to buy me a copy of the record because I really want to hear it.