R.A.H. (againstathorn) wrote,

Music Listening: Then and Now

As of late I've noticed how drastically my listening to music has changed since I was a teenager. Yeah, for better or worse, this is going to be another leap into nostalgia. I'm not saying that one method is better than the other, but it does matter in terms of how one experiences the music and how that might reflect upon the piece.

When I was young my parents had a respectable stereo system located in the basement of our house, complete with a CD player, tape deck, record player, and a dual pair of large speakers which stood up from the floor. Also available was a semi-professional set of headphones. Looking back on this, I was sure spoiled to have such a system at my disposal. Furthermore, this particular room of the house was specifically for music listening, with no computer or television set in sight. One could simply put on the headphones, gently lower the needle down onto a record, and direct their full attention to the music, usually while examining the artwork and liner notes on the album packaging. Truth to told, the cover to Queen's News of the World has a lot more impact as a physical full-size vinyl jacket than a small gif accompanying a digipak.

I also had a walkman for cassette tapes and a portable cd player, both of which relied on batteries. If I wanted to listen to an album during my bus ride to school, I had to bring along the physical cassette or CD. I remember when the bus would hit a bump on the road, causing a song on my CD player to skip, and also when the batteries in my cassette player were nearing the end of their life, resulting in having to hear all my favorite songs in slow-motion. Seriously, when "A Drug Against War" runs five minutes long and has a tempo you could churn butter to, you need new batteries.

On an amusing note, I even remember listening to my walkman while exploring my grandma's old barn. Imagine a 15 year old jumping haystacks in a loft while digging the cyber-glitches of FLA's Tactical Neural Implant. I still hold the sound of that album synonymous with the smell of horse manure, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Anyway, music meant a lot to me as a teenager, and it still holds some resonance with me now, though the way I listen to music has obviously changed.

Excluding live performances and club outings, these days I only really listen to music when doing dishes at home or while at my desk at work. I never listen to it when on public transit (I don't even own a pair of earphones) and only occasionally do I put on music while at my office at home or while driving. The only constant is I still prefer listening to an album, a collection of songs constructed to function thematically as a whole, as opposed to just individual tracks.

Basically, for whatever reason, I listen to music a lot less than I used to, and when I do it tends to function as background noise for when I'm working on something, and I don't like it to merely serve as a distraction.

And yes, all the music I listen to now is in the form of digital files, either played directly from itunes or off an mp3 player. No need to carry around those bulky cassette tapes; I now have nearly 10,000 song files right in the palm of my hand. I'm not going to pretend to be an audiophile, but I can differentiate the varying levels of compression in this format vs the analogue quality of cassettes and vinyl.

Does this really matter if I'm listening to said file through a pair of crappy computer desktop speakers? Probably not. Does downloading an album online, or just listening to the digital files uploaded from a physical disc, make for a less tangible experience than listening to a vinyl record with sleeve in hand? Yes. Might that alter my emotional involvement with the musical piece itself? For me, possibly yes, but for others it depends on their own personal preference. In comparison to the aesthetics I associate with analogue, the most appropriate terms I can think to describe digital listening are "sterile" and "convenient".

That said, bad music, even if supplied on cylinder phonograph and packaged in vellum, is still going to be bad music, and no one will lend an ear purely based on format if it's not worth listening to.

Anyway, as I've gotten older I've more and more come to appreciate silence as opposed to constant audio stimuli.

Posted via m.livejournal.com.

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