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Home » How Record Collectors Find Lost Music and Preserve our Cultural Heritage: Alexis Charpentier (Transcript)

How Record Collectors Find Lost Music and Preserve our Cultural Heritage: Alexis Charpentier (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Alexis Charpentier’s Talk: How Record Collectors Find Lost Music and Preserve our Cultural Heritage at TED conference.

TRANSCRIPT: 

I became obsessed with records when I was about 12 years old. My parents used to give me money to eat and on most days, instead of eating, I would save it and buy myself a record at the end of the week.

Here I am with a gigantic Walkman that’s about half my leg. It actually looks more like a VCR. So when I was a teenager, the obsession of buying cassettes, vinyls and CDs just kept growing. I was even working in a record store for many years and only ever got paid in records. One day I realized that I had thousands of records more than I could even listen to in my life. I became what many of us are: record junkies — or record diggers, as we like to call ourselves.

Record digging, as the name suggests, means getting your hands dirty. It means spending hours rummaging through warehouses, church basements, yard sales, record stores — all to find records that have been forgotten for decades. Records that have become cultural waste. The earliest record collectors from about the ’30s to the 1960s found and preserved so many important records that would have been lost forever. In those days, most cultural and public institutions didn’t really care to preserve these treasures. In many cases, they were just throwing them into the garbage.

Record digging is a lifestyle. We’re absolutely obsessed with obscure records, expensive records, dollar-bin records, crazy artwork, sub-subgenres. And all of the tiniest details that go with each release. When the media talks about the vinyl revival that’s been happening these last few years, they often forget to mention this community that’s been keeping the vinyl and the tradition and the culture alive for these last 30 years.

It’s a very close-knit but competitive society, a little bit, because when you’re hunting for extremely rare records, if you miss your opportunity, you might not see that record ever in your life. But I guess the only person in here truly impressed by record collectors is another record collector. To the outside world, we seem like a very weird, oddball group of individuals. And they’re mostly right. All the record collectors I know are obsessive maniacs.

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