For me, music is a big part of my life. Just how big varies. At times, it’s high on the list of valuable mediums of expression. It’s the only thing I can think about in the car, at work, while mowing the lawn. It’s important as both background noise and vehicle for thoughtful consideration of art. It’s both functional and emotional.

Other times, I seem to forget about music, becoming bored with the entire concept and preferring silence, or talk, or sports.

Regardless, I’ve been lucky enough to be fueled by a constant stream of new music for the past 15 years. My parents were purveyors of what is now known as classic rock. My first job was at Best Buy, stocking CDs and, naturally, purchasing the best ones. High school coincided with a rich influx of pop punk and post-hardcore emo. College brought me Napster, then Kazaa, and eventually a group of friends with an almost equally obsessive quality toward music.

I’m still in touch with these friends today, receiving several albums per week via mix tape or samples or whatever. When I purchased my iPod, I was frantically collecting everything I had lost over the years, ballooning my playlist with thousands of songs I may or may not ever listen to. Anything that sounded remotely familiar made the list, anything recommended was added, anything done by a side project’s side project was holed away for later.

In other words, I’ve been adding music to my collection for a very long time. I’ve rarely taken anything out. I’ve never retired something I enjoy, and I barely ever delete something that has even a glint of promise.

Currently, my iPod has 9,230 songs.

My friends, it’s time to pare back.

Seriously. I don’t even know why I have half of the music I do. Air? Sheryl Crow? Warren G? I’ve got albums I’ve never listened to, albums I thought were funny at the time and artists I don’t like on compilation albums I must keep intact lest the gods of incomplete compilations smite me down in a rain of fire.

I’ve had many of these songs for a long time. And my completist nature halts me from deleting songs willy nilly, like a farmer going after wheat with a scythe, cutting down whatever is in my path.

Instead of going after this like a music fan, I’m looking at it as if they were a staff of employees during a budget crunch. The losers will be whisked away to the unemployment line, unable to continue working on my iPod, no longer available to take up precious space.

There are several classes of employees. There’s the tried and true workers – those who have been with me forever and will continue to lock on because they’ve met their five year tenure, bands that I may not have listened to since college, but still hold a place in my heart.

There are the hard workers, the best employees – my favorite bands, those whom I’ll generously give space to, including side projects, rare b-sides and one-star slacker albums.

Then, there are those who came in on a temp contract, still hanging around even after I’d deemed them unlistenable. Those who were hired with a group of songs I really liked, hiding away for a while due to their proximity to better music. Those who I’ve only kept on because I’m supposed to, serving to boost my quota of jazz or spoken word or whatever.

When I’m done, I should have a streamlined iPod, one that is easy to navigate, one where a new album isn’t instantly lost in the shuffle, squirreled away between Air and Air Supply.

I hope to cut the music down to 8,000, though I know that will be difficult to do.

Moderation is such a difficult practice.

This was lovingly handwritten on May 12th, 2008