I have been working my way through the iTunes radio stations during the past year, from Adult Contemporary (320 streams) to 90’s Hits (83 streams) with a large amount of listening to the International/World section (904 streams) along the way. I prefer to listen this way because it reminds me of the years when the national stations used to broadcast an eclectic mix of music. Each station on iTunes has its’ sound and style but jumping between a few during a listening session can create a nostalgic listening experience but more importantly there is some interesting music I would never choose to listen to but stumble across by accident.
With so much music available now, the ease of accessibility and the segregation of music into sub-sub-sub genres it is becoming difficult to make the chance discoveries that were possible in the past. I may seem like a grumpy old man but when the “if you like this, you’ll like this” message arrives on screen I normally think “no thank you, I want to find something new” and leave the site. It is not that I will not give the suggested band/artist/track a listen it is just I want to find more music, not derivatives.
Many musicians and teachers I talk to bemoan the fact that their pupils don’t listen enough now. It may be when they (and I) were learning our craft there were only recordings of the musicians to listen to, a live gig in this country very rarely happened and definitely no way of replaying them beyond those two events. Of course now I can probably get some YouTube clip of everyone and everything I require, but will I listen?
The problem is the pictures can put you off detailed listening, or you watch the actions to copy the movements but do not fully consider the sound. I appreciate that many of the recorded sounds are over-processed and what is physically happening does not relate to what is finally heard but does every student or viewer/listener understand all the processes involved in producing the recording?
Now I listen so intently that it often spoils my enjoyment but is it a bad thing? To have got to the point where I can understand and hear brilliance, excellence, outstanding, above average, average, a little below average and so on to poor and terrible performances is sometimes a difficult experience but also when it is good, it is exhilarating. I avoid any talent show that involves any form of music performance as they are often too disappointing.
Listening for listening’s sake is to be recommended for all musicians. To be able to hear subtleties of sound colour through the use of different techniques is something to strive for and emulating the sound often gives the performer more expression and life. The qualities that are returning after the decades of over-produced recordings and live shows between the mid 80s and 00s. Enjoy discovering sounds and differences, iTunes is a good place to start.