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Listening September 23, 2009

Posted by sjroby in Life in general, Music.
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Telepathe: Dance Mother

Telepathe: Dance Mother

At the eMusic bulletin board, one regular user announced that he was leaving, not because of the changes at eMusic, but because he has too much music he never listens to, and eMusic’s subscription model just makes that problem worse. I’m not going to quit eMusic any time soon, I hope, but I can see his point.

I’ve downloaded two albums and an EP from eMusic today (Telepathe and TV on the Radio). I’m halfway through listening to one album, haven’t listened to the others yet, and if I give into the strong temptation to go have some coffee and something to eat, I may get caught up in doing something else and not get around to the other stuff I downloaded. And then I may forget about it.

I downloaded the new Maximo Park and Julian Plenti albums a few days ago. I don’t think I’ve listened to either one all the way through yet. I know I listened to the new Lavay Smith all the way through once or twice. The new Sally Shapiro, two or three times. The new Robin Guthrie and the xx, half a dozen or a dozen times, probably. Robert Hampson — a few minutes of it. Andrew Liles — most of it, once, though I liked it a lot.

As great as it is to be able to access so much music so quickly and easily and relatively inexpensively, as great as it is to hear about an interesting new band or genre and be able to hear some of it right away, it’s breadth at the expense of depth. Downloads from eMusic don’t come with liner notes or lyric sheets. That old experience of opening a record or CD and putting it on the stereo, then settling back with the sleeve/jewel box/whatever to read through while listening to the music, doesn’t happen so often. Now it’s more about downloading something while doing something else on the PC, listening to it for a little while until there’s something else to do, and maybe getting back to it. I do sometimes listen to something while googling for reviews and articles about it, but my interaction with the music and the material I’m reading is more active, less immersive.

I like getting to know an album, getting to the point where as one song ends I’m hearing the beginning of the next before it actually starts playing, having songs pop up in my mind at times when I’m not listening to music. Not that long ago I came across a reference to a guitar solo in a particular David Bowie song. How did that solo go again? I basically played the whole song in my head, from memory — oh, yeah, that solo! But that song is on an album I bought when I only had a few dozen records, and it’s one I still love, so I’ve heard it a lot of times. I can’t do that with anything from the last several years. (The downside to that familiarity is that sometimes the music has made such well-worn grooves in my memory that the album plays through and never really grabs my attention; it’s over before I notice it. That’s why I sometimes like using shuffle, or listening to alternate versions of old favourites (live, Peel sessions, demos, etc) — I actually hear everything again.)

I guess that’s part of the point of this blog that no one reads: it’s about reminding me to listen closely to music, to think about it, to value it.

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