It’s been a very long time since I last posted on this blog with any regularity. This is partly because my other blog, Leaping Life has drawn most of my attention. But there is another, more substantive reason: the way in which I listen to music has fundamentally changed in recent years. No longer do I need to turn to my own music library when I want to hear something. These days we have music on tap – the familiar, the ‘if you like this, then try that’, the wholly new.
In the 1980s, when I did most of my teenage music listening, one needed a very solid and serious approach. Your street-cred was judged on which music magazine you subscribed to – principally New Musical Express (NME) for the high-brow and committed; or Smash Hits for the populist. The BBC TV programme Top of the Pops was a must-watch and the BBC Radio 1 chart show was a must-listen. I can remember the shame I felt because I always missed Top of the Pops each week – my violin lesson took place on a Thursday evening. This was, of course, pre-video/pre-catch-up/pre-everything. Everything had to be done in real time. And I could not even compensate by watching the Saturday morning entertainment show because I had orchestra practice. So I relied on keeping up to date by listening to the chart show. I can recall how important it was to try to tape one’s favourite artists, always with appalling results, but necessary nonetheless. How strange such an activity would seem to my 11-year old niece today.
Another ritual was the stalking of record shops to secure one of the first released copies of any record by one’s favourite artist. A particular focus of mine was the ‘limited edition 12inch version’. How exciting it was to get one’s hands on such a thing – I had quite a collection in the end.
Putting on records while one’s friends were around was somewhat traumatic. Did you go with your own personal favourites and risk ridicule from the gallery, or did you compromise and pick things which you knew others would like? And then, of course, there was the making of mix-tapes. That labour of love which allowed you to express in terms other than actual words how you felt about someone else by putting together your choice of tracks on to a single home-recorded cassette. The receiving of such an item could be the best thing ever, or a bit of a problem, depending on the donor and their taste in music.
How times have changed indeed. I started this blog around six years ago (that in itself is amazing). At that time, it seemed fantastic to be able to digitise one’s music and have access to the complete library via an iPod or equivalent. That is why I decided, via this blog, actively to work my way through the thousands of tracks available to me, to which I hardly ever listened. A most enjoyable endeavour I found, until I got stuck in the ‘T’ part of the alphabet. I lost a bit of focus and so my trot through the alphabet stalled while I tried to work out how to approach the latter part of the library.
In the meantime, the concept of streaming began to take off. These days, when I want to listen to any music, my first port of call is not my own library but my streaming provider of choice (currently Apple Music, although I have also tried Amazon Music and Spotify – they all seem pretty much the same to me). In this way, I can hear playlists of music I perhaps know well, interspersed with new-to-me tracks. I like this easy learning approach. I also like not having to make too many decision about what to play. Faced with a specific list of library artists, it can be a challenge to pick – ABBA or Vivaldi (a ‘first-world problem’, I recognise). How much easier it is to select a generic set of tracks ‘1930s dance music; 1950s jazz etc) and let the music do its own thing.
I find this particularly useful when preparing the evening meal. This is often a time when some background music is nice, but when you don’t necessarily need/want to tune in to anything very specific – an overall ‘mood’ is sufficient.
I know that there is currently a resurgence of passion for vinyl. Some people never moved on from records, preferring, in their view, the superior and more authentic audio quality. I’m more than happy with a digital format, however. The vast range of choice, instant access and ease of accessibility are fantastic steps forward. Is there more innovation to come? How interesting it will be to review matters in another six years’ time (although I may well try to post once or twice before then!).
Meanwhile, let me share with you two tracks which have recently become favourite listens as a result of various new ways of accessing music. Enjoy! 🙂