Music and how we listen to it – March Blog 2015.
I was born in the 80’s and therefore grew up in a time when cd’s started replacing cassette tapes. I really enjoyed listening to cassette tapes and remember my brother and I walking around our local neighbourhood with our walkmans on thinking that we were the coolest kids on the block.
Once I heard about cd’s, (or compact discs as the older folks were calling them). The idea of no longer having to listen to a stretched, slowed down or out of pitch song on my cassette walkman seemed revolutionary and I could’t wait to see (or should I say hear) what they were all about.
As I got older, I embraced the idea of full albums and as I made my own money to buy my own music, I became obsessed with purchasing full artist discographies rather than one-off albums or singles like most of my friends. I became quite loyal to artists that I felt did something musically that I liked and didn’t ever really buy into the idea of only listening to the ‘radio single’ from an artist that I enjoyed. This concept seemed ridiculous, mundane and boring and my attitude was, and still is one that questions, why I would only want to hear what the radio was telling me was ‘cool’? Surely, there were other artists out there that were good that weren’t getting mainstream exposure?
So discovering artists and studying their musical progress and monitoring their musical growths/declines from album to album became a bit of a hobby of mine and I would go above and beyond trying to find new music that I might enjoy. I also found that once I made the decision to become a musician myself, that the years of intensely listening to music and trying to figure out what made some songs good and other songs bad really helped my own creativeness, and gave me a musical advantage when performing amongst some of my not so musically inclined friends. I would always have reference points in my head that I could potentially compare things to or steal from. Heck, even Sting said that the greats all borrow from someone right?
Fast forward a few more years and I still buy albums. In fact, the only real difference between me now and then (besides no longer owning the walkmans or disc mans), is that along with cd’s, I also buy lp’s. While I do own an iPod and smartphone and on occasion purchase music in MP3 form off platforms like iTunes and Spotify but I personally still prefer the feeling of a physical album in my hands. I like reading the linear notes and seeing where artists recorded, how long they recorded for and who played on specific tracks.I even read the thank you’s to try and connect the dots between certain artists that might share relations in some kind of way.
I teach a fair amount of music lessons nowadays and meet people of various ages from a lot of different walks of life. Something that I’ve noticed over the last few years among a lot of my students is that music doesn’t really seem important to a lot of them. There’s no need to have any musical heroes anymore and a lot of them have not listened to more than one song from any specific artists.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel that everyone has the right to listen to music however they like, but with record sales at the lowest that they’ve ever been and illegal downloads at an all time high, it does make me think that if people took the time to discover music and become interested in artists from a creative standpoint rather than thinking of music as a disposable art form, we might be able to lift the music industry back to a point to where it might become important, exciting and original again. Remember the times when a kid with a dream and a guitar could turn the world upside down and make everyone feel like they were part of something, when last did an artist like that really break through?
I think about how important music is to me and how specific albums really helped me through certain points in my life, and it makes me wonder why so many people don’t take the time to flex their audio creative muscles, especially when you consider what music can do for you emotionally. Music can remind us of someone we loved, cheer us up after a hard day, take us back to our childhood (even if just briefly), or help us feel nostalgic about moments that we will never ever have again. It can also push us through a hard gym routine or pump us up for a nerve wrecking job interview. The power of music is (and can be) simply amazing.
If you have one (or some) favourite albums, think about how exciting it was listening to them for the first time. If the album was really important to you I urge you to listen to it again and see how it can transport you back to that same time and place you were at when you first heard it. There are still amazing songs and albums getting made everyday. The problem is that they’re just not always being heard, or is it maybe that we just aren’t taking the time to really listen to them anymore? It’s hard to tell.
Do a little audio digging and you might find some listening gold. That’s it for this month, be good to each other and practice hard.