Walls of Sound — A Look Inside the House of Records (2012/63 min.) is a feature-length documentary video that explores the House of Records, a brick and mortar independent record store based in Eugene, Oregon. The store has been in operation since 1972 and it currently struggles to exist in the midst of digital downloading (both legal and illegal) and the practices of corporate retailers (in terms of corporate big-box and online stores and their selling practices). It also struggles against forces of nature (the roof being impaled by a giant tree, fire and flooding etc.) and thieves. The video is an ethnographic study that combines interviews with the owner and employees and various customers of the store. Their stories and observations are often imbued with a quirky sense of humor, biting intelligence and a deep admiration for the store and its culture. The video addresses the cultural significance and various folkloric narratives of the store on a number of levels. It explores how the store provides cultural diversity and alternative media, as they cater to the musical fringes and a broad range of musical styles not widely available at other retail outlets. It is argued the store is akin to a “library” and acts as an archive of obscure and out-of-print music, where the store-workers share their musical expertise with the customers (and vice versa). The video also addresses the importance of the vernacular (or handmade) design of the physical space (the store is situated in an old house) and tangible musical artifacts, especially the “resurgence” of vinyl records. Lastly, it addresses the importance of face-to-face interaction as the store acts as a community gathering space between the store-workers, customers and local music scenes — one that is ostensibly anti-corporate, fiercely local and subcultural in scope.
For more information, visit the Walls of Sound — A Look Inside the House of Records webpage.