consuming music

I need to let myself really listen to the music I consume, rather than (to further the metaphor) mindlessly move my hand from bowl to mouth.

Last night, I went to see Missy Higgins at the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA. It’s probably the smallest venue she’ll be playing at in this area, given the sold out show and the number of folks trying to get tickets that day. We ended up with seats that had a good view of the whole stage. It was a blast!

About a month ago, I had given my friend, Holly, a copy of both The Sound of White and On a Clear Night, which apparently have not left her CD player since. For Holly, it was a strange experience to be at a concert for a (relatively) unknown artist and know every single song. For me, it was a wake-up call that I have been consuming too much music and not spending enough time on any one album to get to know it as well as I used to.

Even though I’ve been a fan of Higgins for about two years, I knew maybe a third to a half of the songs she played — the rest were vaguely familiar, but not old friends like they should have been by now. What kind of a fan am I? One with too much music and not enough time to listen to it all. A blessing, but also a curse.

When I was younger, I would listen to a single album on cassette tape for hours and hours. The best piece of electronic equipment in our house (in my opinion) was the stereo that had the cassette player that could reverse directions to play the other side without having to flip the cassette around. Now that I can afford to buy or cheaply trade for new music, my focus has shifted from completely absorbing an album because I wasn’t likely to get another for at least six months to amassing as many new albums as I can as quickly as I can.

I need to slow down. I need to let myself really listen to the music I consume, rather than (to further the metaphor) mindlessly move my hand from bowl to mouth. Pay attention to the lyrics, to the layers of sound, to the complexities of the composition. One brief run through the tracks while I am doing something else isn’t going to cut it.

4 thoughts on “consuming music”

  1. I can identify with your friend Holly’s experience. I rarely buy music and I only buy CDs from musicians who aren’t likely to show up on top 40 radio. Someone like Kanye West is going to get played enough on radio and TV that I will hear my fill without ever having to spend money. So I (and now my kids) end up memorizing songs that our friends have never heard. It’s like having a family joke because my kids will start quoting lines from something and everyone else looks at them strangely :-).

    I remember those teenage days of only owning 10 cassettes and playing them over and over. Even back then I bought overlooked music from the $2 bin at the Record Bar. What I wouldn’t give to have a copy of my Lone Justice cassette again!

  2. Albums? What are these albums you speak of? Okay, yes, I still buy the occasional album. But most of my music these days is b(u)y-the-song. I’ll hear the kids talking about something and have to try it out (or I’ll see Vampire Weekend on SNL and need to explore some more).

    But, yeah, I, too, am much more prone to ‘tasting’ than ‘experiencing’ these days, when it comes to music.

  3. I might get a single or two via digital download, and I recently set up an emusic account, but I’m still attached to the physical format CD. I like the liner notes and it is a more secure archive than remembering to backup my iTunes library. Also, that’s one less section of wall that needs decorating.

    FWIW, I use “album” to mean something not a single or EP. Could be any medium, from vinyl to digital.

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