Lately I've been wondering about how I organize music on my iPod. Yes, I've still got a nice mid-range stereo system in the study, and there are various boomboxes around the house that I'll drop a CD into once in a while, but the iPod's become my primary music delivery device of late, & I haven't come close to filling the 80 gigs of space on the iPod Classic some holiday brought me year before last.
The built-in organizational devices on the iPod are very powerful: you can search by song title, by composer, by artist, and by album. But early on in my iPodding, I started constructing playlists which were primarily just dumping grounds for single artists. That rather goes against the intended logic of playlists, which I think are meant to be groups of disparate songs intended for various occasions & moods: dance tracks for this weekend's party, songs I like to listen to when I'm happy/down/bouncy, songs that feature great tabla playing, and so forth. Instead, I have like a "Radiohead" playlist which contains basically all of their albums in chronological order, plus a couple of bootlegged concerts.
This gets pretty unwieldy when I have a more or less comprehensive collection of a single artist – say, every single Richard Thompson album (plus all the Richard & Linda records, and a half-dozen live albums & a handful of "unauthorized" things) – what good is a playlist with 250-odd songs? With some artists of whom I own a truly embarassing number of albums, I end up making subsidiary playlists in order to get ahold of the sprawl: for John Zorn (760 songs total) I have subsidiary playlists of Naked City, Painkiller, Masada & Masada-related stuff, chamber music, etc.
And then there's the problem of someone like Bill Laswell, who's known as much for production & for collaborative work as for records under his own name. If I simply relied on the iPod's "artist" search, I wouldn't find Praxis, or Material, or Massacre, or Axiom, or Last Exit, or any number of his other projects. So I end up with a vast "Laswell" playlist that includes all of those monikers, & thru which I have to wade interminably in order to find a given thing.
It's really, in little, the same problem I'm increasingly having with my bookshelves, which have gone from micro-division (contemporary American poetry divided from 19th-century & colonial, English Welsh & Scottish poetry all having their own divisions, Language Poets separated out from SOQ, etc.) to broader alphabetical bunging. All my American poetry is now in one run, along with Canadian (so it's technically "North American" poetry, tho specifically Anglophone – Francophone Canadian goes in with the French). I'm on the point – it'll be a big & painful job – of incorporating all the British Isles stuff into a single run.
Obviously, I'm avoiding prepping courses & grading papers right now; the conference (Louisville) this weekend was great fun, & even intellectually enlivening. I'll say a few words about it soon, I think. Right now I've got to get back to putting the page numbers from the old Nightwood into the new, reset edition (damn you, New Directions – but yes, it's much more readable) so that my (of course scrupulously revised & updated) lecture notes make sense.