Saturday, February 25, 2006

Fear of (less) music.

A few quick thoughts re: The Good Prof's insightful "Ways of Hearing" post and the rather curmudgeonly comments they inspired. Seems to me that the main victim in terms of so much music being so easily available for free is that we gain a superficial knowledge about a ton of different artists but don't delve deeply - and form that crucial emotional bond - with much of anything. As a result, we think that no music out there is really exciting us and hey, aren't we in a position to know since we're sampling so much of it? But really we're victims of own exhaustion without realizing it. Or maybe that's just me.

The best albums and music often require that you sit with them for a while. Many of my all-time faves took many spins and exposure in a variety of contexts before they clicked. But I stuck with them because I had already invested the cash and wanted to see if I could fan the flicker of interest they inspired into something more sustaining. Sly's "There's A Riot Going On," Pere Ubu's "Dub Housing," Tricky's "Maxinquay," DJ Shadow's "Entroducing," Miles Davis' "Nefretiti," even George Jones "Greatest Hits" all took real effort for me to crack, but now I can't imagine my life without them. I'm sure everyone has their own list. The effort was a big part of the payoff, etcetera. But today when I come across something new, even a reissue that I've coveted for years, I'm tempted just to right-click, add it to a playlist, listen a few times, then file it away and quickly move onto the next. Pere Ubu - Check. DJ Shadow - Got It. Arctic Monkeys - Sure. Now what else you got for me?

Borges talks about how much more we would know if we only read one book - but really knew it inside and out - instead of ingesting an entire library. And there's much truth to that. There's a real hollowness to the rapid ingestion of music that the web inspires. And music blogs tend to exacerbate this feeling. Everyone's looking for the next thing and burning through so much music - much of it often before it's even officially released - that the thing itself seems D.O.A. by the time it hits the shelves. All the excitement and mystery drained from it. Or else we feel like everyone else has already had our reactions for us and what else could we possibly add to the conversation? (Quick fr'instance: the new Destroyer).

Now The Prof talks about how his edge is so dull, but I'd wager that part of his (and certainly my) obssessive reading of music blogs is because he's still trying to keep up! We want to know what's the hippest new shit even if we don't get to hear it because at least then we're participating to some degree. We can't stand the idea of being left behind. Even as we feel ourselves becoming more and more alienated from the music itself.

Time spent reading music blogs = less time spent actually listening to music. Especially for those of us who are juggling precious little free time in terms of job, family, and social life. There are some obvious answers to this situation, but they seem a bit specious coming from a music blog. Perhaps some practical solutions to follow at a later date. Comments welcome.


Blogger Prof. Drew LeDrew said...

Chilly, glad you took this up.

I actually cut out a paragraph dealing with how I used to fetishize the package --- how I could stare endlessly into the gatefold (ask yer pa) while listening to whatever --- VU and Nico comes to mind. And that takes time. No multi-tasking, no distractions, no family, kids, job. This might all be a conversation about how things ain't as good as they used to be, but I hope not. (Even if that is also true.)

And as for keeping up, I guess I feel nowadays that that is my disease. There may be no immediate cure, but I'm gonna try and mask the symptoms. 'Course, part of the edge sharpening (the not pathetic part) can be a way of digging through the noise to find something that isn't being buzz-clipped, and that isn't getting over. There's an internet-fueled promise of finding pre-buzz music, un-mediated by hype, that can fuel the search, but increasingly feels like a fool's errand. I'm prolly being spun more now than ever. Marathonpacks had a nifty post on the coopting of blogs a little while ago that got into this....

Ah, well. That all said, this feels like an indie thing. Jazz, for one, doesn't seem nearly as next-big-thingish. (Nothing big about it, I guess.) And then there's hip-hop, which, while mature and subject to the same kinds of pre-release leaks and what-have-you, seems (from this pretty distant vantage) to lead less to blog-hole behavior .

10:37 PM  
Blogger Chilly Jay Chill said...

Re: finding pre-buzz music brings up several questions. First I suppose would be what's the urgency? I mean, obviously I get it and it's in the DNA of every indie fan to want to be on the bandwagon before the unwashed masses. But as I get older, the pursuit seems a little more pointless. The Fruitbats might not be hyped to the gills, but they're also nowhere near as good as The Arctic Monkeys, who are. Is there really a question about where your time is better spent? I just want to find the great stuff - whether it's cracked the Top 40 or (here's the indie thing) clinging like lichen to underside of someone's hard drive. But I generally leave the lichen-scraping to others with more time - or who get paid to do it. I guess I just wonder if you're missing out on some obviously wonderful stuff in a largely fruitless search that more befits an A&R dude?

As for being spun, there's probably some truth to record companies using blogs but the larger issue to me is that the blogs themselves are an echo canyon of hype. Xgau made this point in his P&J essay that the desire for blogs to flog the latest greatest means that they often cut the knees off last year's discovery for no good reason. Four Tet's "Everything Ecstatic" was just as good and even significantly different than "Rounds," but few people had any love for the guy because the blog world had already been there, done that. The decisions are increasingly less about the music and more about keeping your cred as a tastemaker. If that's not hype, not sure what is. Maybe it's well-meaning, but in many cases you're still being spun like a record round round.

As for the package fetishizing as part of the listening experience, it's a great point and one that's also crossed my mind. It is harder to get that time as you get older, but I also think we both have a tendency to cast aside music quicker these days and move on to the next. I find myself not giving stuff as much of a chance to sink in and really understand it -- even if my time isn't as monastic as it once was, sometimes quantity (even in dribs and drabs) equals quality. Not sure, maybe this is just my problem?

1:37 PM  

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