All the Memory in the World, All the Music in the World: Mediating Musical Patrimony in the Digital Age
In this article, I will examine the internet through the lens of consumption and waste studies. The internet will be conceived of as the place where the cultural waste of music – in the form of marginal artefacts and obsolete media (such as vinyl records, tapes, and ephemera) – can effectively be excavated, recirculated and re-mediated by means of systematic digitisation and uploading. The redemptive role of popular and spontaneous digital archives (such as the video platform YouTube or dedicated audio blogs) will be critically examined. Complementarily, I will underline the idea that the internet also encourages a paradoxical return of tangible artefacts, as the work of digital music collectors may prompt the actual reissue of previously lost music objects (a tendency that is exemplified in the UK by the work of British contemporary reissue record labels such as Trunk Records or Finders Keepers). The internet will be discussed as an ambiguous site of redemption, forming the basis for a nostalgic retro-consumption of music. As such, it will be conceived of as a site of memory and as a possible archive, though the ambiguity of such a term will be discussed. I will reflect upon the cultural meaning of digital archives that, as they are ceaselessly renewed, continue to erase themselves. Lastly, I will suggest that the forms of redemption that are enabled by the internet are strictly inseparable from the production of further layers of cultural waste. Departing from Straw's assertion that the internet ‘has strengthened the cultural weight of the past, increasing its intelligibility and accessibility’ (2007, 4), I will point out that the internet may accelerate the processes of cultural obsolescence and oblivion that it seeks to suspend.