This Saturday, Other Music—the tiny, beloved, and outré record shop on East Fourth Street—will cease its retail operations. Critics can and have read Other Music’s bow-out as representative, in an allegorical way, of any number of bigger Ends: the End of music as a physical medium to be collected and doted over, the End of curated off-line retail, the End of curation, the End of the East Village, the End of New York. Most of those Ends—whether real or imagined—have already been eulogized so aggressively that to revisit them now seems plainly indulgent. In our accelerated culture, collective nostalgia, in which we mourn the freshly antiquated for reasons that are unclear but still enormously potent, is its own cottage industry.
There are no record bins anymore—no little plastic signposts signifying content, broadcasting a set of principles, musical and otherwise. Genre itself—or, more specifically, genre affiliation as a means of self-identification—feels like another End hovering in the atmosphere this week. No one is asked to choose one affiliation at the expense of another. Instead, it is perfectly normal, even expected, that a person might have a little bit of everything stacked up in her digital library. The idea of “Other Music” as it was conceived in 1995 is unknowable now.