arts

Locals talk about relationships to record collections



Five years ago Stephen Deusner set out for Chicago from New York City in a 26-foot Penske moving truck.

Somewhere along the way he calculated he had devoted about 10 percent of the truck to his CD collection. Once he settled in Chicago, Deusner said he decided to sell his collection. After the CDs were gone, however, he started to buy the beginnings of his vinyl record collection.

Today Deusner, an employee at Landlocked Music in Bloomington, said his record collection numbers somewhere between three and four thousand. His records don’t just sit on shelves, though. He said he probably listens to about five albums from his collection every day.

“I don’t really collect for collectability, just because if I do that I’ll never be able to really play it,” Deusner said.

Deusner’s collection isn’t unique. The hobby of record collecting and the meaning those collections have for their owners is the topic of the documentary “Records Collecting Dust.” Musician and filmmaker Jason Blackmore wrote and directed the movie, which will be screened at the Bishop on March 8.

The film “documents the vinyl record collections, origins and holy grails of alternative music icons,” according to the Bishop’s website.

Not everyone collects in the same way. Justin Vollmar,a manager of TD’s CDs and LPs in Bloomington, said he has collected records for about 20 years, yet his collection consists of only about 30 records. He said he buys a lot of his records used, runs through all the songs he likes and trades them out for something he hasn’t heard yet.

Deusner said there are multiple aspects of record collecting that interest him.

The necessity of flipping the record from side A to side B “forces you to attend to the music,” he said. This keeps the music from just becoming background noise. Vollmar said he agreed the ritual and involvement needed for vinyl records draws him in.

For newer digitally recorded music, Vollmar said he often likes to just have a CD, but albums that were intended for vinyl, mainly older records, are really enjoyable to hear through their intended medium.

When it comes to older records, Deusner said he looks at them as “artifacts of pop history.” He said he is fascinated by everything from the music’s style to how the records were packaged and sold.

The record that sparked Deusner’s interest in building a collection came before his move to Chicago and before he even owned a record player, he said. After writing a review of an album by Pinetop Seven, the band sent him a vinyl copy of the album, he said.

“I just couldn’t get rid of it,” he said.

When looking for records to add to his collection, Deusner said he made an agreement with himself that he would never shop online. Deusner said he searched through five states to find the 1968 Bobbie Gentry album “Local Gentry.” He said his principle comes from more than just wanting to support brick-and-mortar stores.

“There is something specific and rewarding about finding it in a physical copy yourself that I don’t think comes through when you just order online or go through eBay or something like that,” he said.

Some records in Deusner’s collection have a very personal connection. While going through old odds and ends from his family a few years ago, he said he found a vinyl recording of his grandfather, a Southern Baptist preacher, singing the hymn “Pearly White City.” Listening to the record was the first time he had heard his grandfather’s voice since he passed away when Deusner was 8 years old.

The record was engraved in real time as his grandfather sang the hymn at his church in 1948. Deusner said he doesn’t have the equipment to play the record at home, but he had the song digitized and is glad to just have the record.

“It’s such an amazing thing that I kind of think digital won’t allow that kind of experience,” he said, “You’ll always have it somewhere. Maybe you’ll come across it, maybe you’ll lose it for a while, but it’s not going to be that same kind of rediscovery.”

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