Disposing of my late dad's CD collection has proven tricky - Gaby Soutar

“Maybe the museum will take them?” my mum said.

Nicola Benedetti performs onstage during the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony at Microsoft Theater on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Timothy Norris/Getty Images)
Nicola Benedetti performs onstage during the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony at Microsoft Theater on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Timothy Norris/Getty Images)

She’s moving house, so I was clearing out my late dad’s CDs and trying to explain that the format is pretty redundant these days. I’m not sure if she was joking.

She has a dry sense of humour, but is also an extreme technophobe who can barely work the television switcher. I gave up trying to explain Spotify.

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Anyway, we took them away, in the boot of the car. About 500, stacked into two cardboard boxes that I’d procured from the local Margiotta.

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We accidentally scrambled his meticulous alphabetical order, so Beethoven was rubbing up next to Glenn Miller. His record player and speakers were collected by a charity shop the day after.

They also took his personal CD player, which was a time capsule for the last album he’d listened to. The eject button was stuck and I couldn’t crack the thing open, though I didn’t bother to persevere with a butter knife. I don’t want to know what was in there, it makes me feel too maudlin.

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All of this gadgetry was top of the range, back in the day.

Although their number is still stored in my phone as Mum and Dad, it’s been four years since I phoned the house and would hear his music in the background. Mum would say, hold on, while she closed the door to the living room, where he’d either be listening to a record or playing the piano. He rarely answered, since he probably couldn’t hear it ringing.

The plan was to take the CDs straight to one of Oxfam’s music shops. I’m not going to keep them, since owning un-played albums might be compared to keeping a bird in a cage. They are wasted on me.

As the shop was at capacity, I’ve been slowly feeding them into the local free library instead. This is, essentially, a cupboard at the end of the park near me. It’s primarily used to pass on dog-eared books, though sometimes people put other stuff in there - a zebra toy was the meat in a Donna Tartt and Jenny Colgan sandwich yesterday.

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It probably would have been psychologically easier to get rid of them in one fell swoop. Instead, I feel like a sadomasochist for ripping that plaster off slowly.

Someone is taking them and they disappear in chunks of about 30 at a time. This mystery person never met him, but they will soon own my dad’s lifetime collection, much of which was procured on visits to a music shop near the Usher Hall.

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As they vanish, I’m aware that this is a chance for me to enjoy the music that was my dad’s passion. ‘Listen to me’, the Alice in Wonderland label would say.

I ignore it, as I don’t want to go down that grief-riddled rabbit hole.

There’s Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Schubert and Chopin, as well as one wild card per hundred composers. I don’t know how he came to own Susan Boyle, The Divine Comedy or Barry Manilow. Perhaps they were gifts.

Anyway, each day, there’s a reminder of what he loved.

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There’s also all the Christmas compilations. They used to irritate us, especially once he was a bit deaf, and would turn them up loud, so we couldn’t chat while opening presents together.

There would be Mendelsson or carol singers, belting it out, as we shouted ‘THANK YOU” to whoever our gift was from. Glory Hosanna, until our ears were ringing.

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Every time he left the room, we’d sneak the volume down a notch. I feel bad about that, though I don’t think he ever noticed.

Although he also loved Edinburgh native, jazz musician Tommy Smith, as well as Scott Joplin and Fats Waller, dad was always desperate for me to get into classical music. One of his happy moments was when I agreed to see Nicola Benedetti in concert with him. He kept asking me what I thought. I think he was waiting for a grand conversion. I did enjoy it, and I told him so, but I wish I’d enthused a bit more.

Generally, I pushed against it, for some reason. It may have been an aversion to the pressure, though it would have been a direct route to becoming the golden child.

I love music too, but my tastes are different. I don’t listen to it in the same way that he did, either. His style was totally immersive. He’d put his headphones on, close his eyes and luxuriate.

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I prefer to listen on the move. I enjoy a soundtrack to propel me to the gym, or while I’m looking out of the bus window. I get compulsions to dance or sing. Sometimes I bust a move, if there’s nobody to see me but the spuggies. Perhaps that’s a generational thing. Anyway, there are no lyrics to Symphony No 9 in C.

As children, my sister and I would have to listen to piano concertos at full blast on car journeys. We were captive, and I think he thought we might absorb it that way.

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“Please can we have the radio on?” my sister and I would whine. He’d capitulate, once in a while, but would turn A-ha or Michael Jackson right down so that we could barely hear Take on Me or Billie Jean. As a slightly older parent - he had me at 43, and my sister at 45 - he was never into pop.

So, I continue to slowly dispose of his classical collection. If I see a Benedetti, I might just hold onto it.

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