January 5, 2007 9:26 AM

Perhaps the worst and best thing about being a music enthusiast is that, if you're resourceful and able (and, nowadays, have a good internet connection), you will never, ever come close to exhausting that net-possible bin of records, psychologically and socially labelled "Worth Hearing." Mostly because, such a label also breaks down into:

Worth Hearing, If Inessential
Worth Hearing, For General Knowledge
Worth Hearing, Because It's Flat-Out So Goddamn Good
Worth Hearing, Because It Has Something You Like
Worth Hearing, By Popular or Critical Consensus

And so on. The problem is, nothing is labeled this way, because these labels exist only in your head (but that doesn't make them any less real). You have to figure it out yourself! And you will waste time listening to things that don't fall into any of these bins. It's a grossly inefficient system. You do get better at sorting through it all, as your knowledge grows and your interests become specific. But, even as the perfectly efficient listening machine, you would never stop working. Because, if you're really enthusiastic about music, you'll never be able to resist a fruitful digression, whereever it may take you. New music grows among the living plants and old music reveals itself in the dust, forever and always, and the charm of these unforeseeable possibilities will not let you make a final commitment to any style, genre, or region. Given such circumstances, the Perfectly Efficient Listening Machine, even if it were immortal, would inevitably grow a beard and die. This is the fact of the matter, and you have to know it and love it, if you're to stick with music as your life's central interest. It's not hard work, maybe not even "work", really, but there's no end to it! An eternal task for the non-eternal human.