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electrow 7th August 2014 04:11 AM

What does it mean to listen to music today
 
What does it mean to listen to music today. Below I wrote as a response to another thread and realized the whole idea of listening to music is a separate subject. Just as the sound and character of music has evolved so has the way music is listened to. I've read that in today's world people just don't have the patience to devote time to listening, that's it's not a stimulating enough activity. I don't know whether that's true or not .




Just focus on why hardly anyone sits around and actually "listens" to music. Perhaps the majority never did. But up through the 70's enough did such that having a decent stereo system physically arranged for listening so that one could appreciate the nuances which went into the recording was important to many. It didn't have to be expensive but just placed right. Very few are buying stereo systems for music, but they are buying their surround sound home theater systems with the big screen with the all important subwoofer. (As a friend put it, he loves to turn the sound up for the scenes with big explosions so the windows shake). People want more stimulation, not something they have to focus on to appreciate. Few want to take the time to experience music.

The music industry has sold the idea that the only viable economic model is live performance. Yet a lot of music was/is created in the studio, intended for the listening system, not a live venue. The Beatles most creative albums were purely studio creations, and sold very well. And obviously electronic music itself is wedded to a sound system, to be heard at it's best.

It's ironic that people here, as elsewhere will debate who makes the best sounding acoustic piano ITB or OTB, all the while ignoring the cheap earbuds it's going to be heard on. Today music is over compressed, narrowing the dynamic range and not allowed to have any :-) "quiet" passages. I guess the reason for this is because the last thing the receiving listener wants is to actually have to listen to the music.

MP3 format has probably done more to kill the desire to cultivate the appreciation of music as an art form, as well as devaluing the artist. MP3 was the symbolic canary in the coal mine. Not only did music become a cheap mass commodity but it lost a lot of it's ability to challenge listeners. The idea of the concept album is virtually dead. Gone are the days of having to get up go to the stereo and move the needle,or fast forward the cassette or CD remote because you didn't like particular song/instrument. Then one day you don't skip over that piece of music and for some reason you "get it". I've come to appreciate many pieces this way and have turned out to being lasting favorites.
But with MP3 it's too easy to pick and choose and completely disregard the rest of the artist's intent. Talking about gear lust as an addiction (however tongue in cheek it may be) is nothing compared to the virtual collection of music people have at their finger tips. Today music is ancillary, much more than in the past, to doing something: driving, working, running, going somewhere. In many ways it has just become background elevator music. As another comment pointed out people want to be stimulated, distracted and a lot of today's music provides that in spades. But don't expect to be paid much as long as there's no tangible value in the music coveted by the listener.

I've been listening to Jon Hassell's album: Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street. It came out in 2009. It requires listening, literally as in hearing, not because it is challenging but because there are many quiet passages, yet with a lot going on, subtlety. He uses electronics as a wonderful accent. Beautifully produced and crafted. It draws you in. It's a piece of art. Daring to make a quiet album. Probably not a big seller. But probably being over 70 when it was recorded, I imagine he doesn't care about sales.

Hazmatic 7th August 2014 04:35 AM

I get a kick from producers/engineers that swear by 48 kHz or 96 kHz, 24 bit, ultra high-resolution recordings, only to have 99% of listeners hear the end result as a crappy MP3 on a pair of cheap Skull Candy earbuds or a pair of laptop speakers. I don't put all the blame on MP3s though. We live in a time where anyone can "write" a song, "produce" it using nothing more than a smart phone. Technology has allowed anyone & everyone to take a shot at making music when most of them shouldn't (especially DJs).

INDEED 7th August 2014 05:23 AM

Photography & video too.
Hard to tell where things are going

deondamage 7th August 2014 05:58 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by electrow (Post 10318213)
Then one day you don't skip over that piece of music and for some reason you "get it". I've come to appreciate many pieces this way and have turned out to being lasting favorites.

I like this one. I miss those days. I have bought so much music from sites like Beatport that I ended up not liking all that much. This happened simply because the production had that wow factor at the time, but musically, it didn`t grow on me. I can`t help but wonder how much I`ve lost in the past years by not being able to buy albums with that 1 or 2 odd and not so popular musical pieces that turned out to be masterpieces.

Mace Clef 7th August 2014 06:18 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Hazmatic (Post 10318253)
I get a kick from producers/engineers that swear by 48 kHz or 96 kHz, 24 bit, ultra high-resolution recordings, only to have 99% of listeners hear the end result as a crappy MP3 on a pair of cheap Skull Candy earbuds or a pair of laptop speakers.

People have been listening to music on tinny monophonic radio speakers since day one. Charles Ives listened to one of his pieces being premiered through a little kitchen radio. For some of us, the audio quality is everything, but for an awful lot of people its the music itself that counts, not how perfect the kick sits with the bass. In EM its often about the sound; the sound is the music so we get frustrated when its full effect isn't heard. Bummer, but there it is.

There are things that bug me more though, such as poor voice leading. But, again, most people couldn't give a toss.

Anyway, its a massive subject that you've brought up in the OP. It can splinter in many directions; almost a metaphor for what has happened to our concentration this century. Our brains have been re-wired to require constant stimulation and to superficially assimilate new sources of information at a faster rate. We know more and yet we absorb less. I think anyone from the pre-internet era doesn't just know this but can feel the difference, can feel how our brains have changed. Generation Z have never known any difference. This isn't meant as a disparaging comment, just an observation.

I don't agree with the fallacy that there isn't the time to dedicate to listening to music. There is no more or less than there ever was. But concentration has undoubtedly been fractured, meaning that deep immersion in a concept album or symphony has been compromised by our relentless need for multiple sources of stimulation. Put on a John Zorn album, open up a blog, check email, watch a youtube prat fall with mute on, back and forwards between pages in a matter of seconds. Don't like this bit of a piece of music so drop the needle somewhere else, stop near a climactic passage to make a coffee, enjoy a few bars so put it on loop....all the time while skim reading, skyping and lamenting the loss of muscle tone through physical inactivity (so you read the 10 best exercises to do when stationary as Zorn winds down). Search furiously for new music, giving 10 seconds to each new youtube video before shuffling to the next thing.

Maybe the answer is to take music out of documentaries, out of stores, off of adverts, and restore it to its original place: as a sonic event placed between periods of silence that should be appreciated away from other stimulation. But you've got more chance of finding square mouse sh*t.

Personally, I find the most satisfaction in playing it. Wether its a piano sonata on my own or in a band or ensemble, that is where the heart of it is for me. An active platform rather than a passive one. If education was given a decent budget then I hope that more people would come to understand this, but I think maybe that's another subject.

TremblingLarry 7th August 2014 09:07 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mace Clef (Post 10318390)
But concentration has undoubtedly been fractured, meaning that deep immersion in a concept album or symphony has been compromised by our relentless need for multiple sources of stimulation. Put on a John Zorn album...

I think you nailed it. I think people as a species are a process of running through and testing all available options. I think it takes the process of bigots to understand the failures of bigotry, it takes the process of laziness to understand the failures of laziness. These failures are necessary, because the virtues become all the more vivid. The failures are the soil of the virtue. The subconscious failings made perfectly vivid to the creative mind. It takes the experimentation with bad music to make good music. The reason people choose ****ty options music wise is because they finally have the option. We're collectively running through the pluses and minuses of the new option with our lives. Every sin so called must be vividly lived to be transcended. A person will eventually become nauseous at the fireworks of insane stimulation. Like a, **** I don't know, a gluttony of sound will eventually fold back on to silence. But there's a weird sense in people though now, that essential challenges are some how dark and apocalyptic. No. The struggle has never changed, except on a superficial level. The same virtues remain. Thoughtfulness. Lack of vanity. A sense of history. Humor. Individuality. Real feeling. Nothing has really changed in terms of the essentials. No one is below there heroes, by whatever technical
degree, if they have the purity of intent. The beauty is not the technical brilliance, it's easier and more difficult, it's the purity of intent.

Mace Clef 7th August 2014 12:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TremblingLarry (Post 10318582)
A person will eventually become nauseous at the fireworks of insane stimulation.

I hope so!

The internet-era overload is like standing in a field looking up at the sky where everything can be seen clearly and a fleet of trucks coming along and dumping their stuff in front of you. All of a sudden you see a thousand things that interest you, sometimes fascinating, but frequently unimportant and irrelevant. But you can't see the field or the sky any more.

What we need is the discipline to step back and admire the calmer terrain and switch between the two. That is maybe the challenge of the century if we want the ability to absorb things at a deeper level but still enjoy the freedom of endless information. I'm not sure that the desire exists in many people or that our brains are physically capable of it though. The seduction of ephemeral information has us on the ropes.

SimonInAustralia 7th August 2014 01:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by electrow (Post 10318213)
The music industry has sold the idea that the only viable economic model is live performance.
...

MP3 format has probably done more to kill the desire to cultivate the appreciation of music as an art form, as well as devaluing the artist.

Internet piracy being accepted as the worldwide norm has driven the music industry towards the only viable economic model being live performance, due to the devaluing of the artist's recorded product by such piracy.

samsam 7th August 2014 01:39 PM

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be, eh Gearslutz ?

electrow 11th August 2014 05:47 PM

From a CNET Article
Does anybody really listen to music anymore? - CNET

by Steve Guttenberg
@AudiophiliacMan
January 16, 2011

Does anybody really listen to music anymore?


"music "on" isn't the same thing as actually listening to it.
Music is all around us, it's just that very few people actually listen to it. Sure, you have music in your car, iPod, or computer, but is the music just a soundtrack to other activities? If music, a la carte, can't hold your attention from time to time you're definitely not an audiophile. Worse yet, you're missing a lot.

Think about it: the people who made the music sweated the details, agonized over the sound, the mix, and the performance for weeks or months. The composer tweaked the work to the nth degree, and still, very, very few "listeners" ever give music their undivided attention. They only hear the surface, the most obvious elements of the music. Multitask all you want, but can you just focus on the music? Let it really get to you............

And who knows, if such a change came about, you might get more out of listening. You might start to notice how good (or bad) your speakers or headphones really are. You might even start to prioritize some dollars toward better sound. Uh-oh, you might be an audiophile after all.

Caution: Actively listening to music may result in... more active listening. That might negatively impact precious hours spent on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube".

OurDarkness 11th August 2014 07:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mace Clef (Post 10318390)
People have been listening to music on tinny monophonic radio speakers since day one. Charles Ives listened to one of his pieces being premiered through a little kitchen radio. For some of us, the audio quality is everything, but for an awful lot of people its the music itself that counts, not how perfect the kick sits with the bass. In EM its often about the sound; the sound is the music so we get frustrated when its full effect isn't heard. Bummer, but there it is.

There are things that bug me more though, such as poor voice leading. But, again, most people couldn't give a toss.

Anyway, its a massive subject that you've brought up in the OP. It can splinter in many directions; almost a metaphor for what has happened to our concentration this century. Our brains have been re-wired to require constant stimulation and to superficially assimilate new sources of information at a faster rate. We know more and yet we absorb less. I think anyone from the pre-internet era doesn't just know this but can feel the difference, can feel how our brains have changed. Generation Z have never known any difference. This isn't meant as a disparaging comment, just an observation.

I don't agree with the fallacy that there isn't the time to dedicate to listening to music. There is no more or less than there ever was. But concentration has undoubtedly been fractured, meaning that deep immersion in a concept album or symphony has been compromised by our relentless need for multiple sources of stimulation. Put on a John Zorn album, open up a blog, check email, watch a youtube prat fall with mute on, back and forwards between pages in a matter of seconds. Don't like this bit of a piece of music so drop the needle somewhere else, stop near a climactic passage to make a coffee, enjoy a few bars so put it on loop....all the time while skim reading, skyping and lamenting the loss of muscle tone through physical inactivity (so you read the 10 best exercises to do when stationary as Zorn winds down). Search furiously for new music, giving 10 seconds to each new youtube video before shuffling to the next thing.

Maybe the answer is to take music out of documentaries, out of stores, off of adverts, and restore it to its original place: as a sonic event placed between periods of silence that should be appreciated away from other stimulation. But you've got more chance of finding square mouse sh*t.

Personally, I find the most satisfaction in playing it. Wether its a piano sonata on my own or in a band or ensemble, that is where the heart of it is for me. An active platform rather than a passive one. If education was given a decent budget then I hope that more people would come to understand this, but I think maybe that's another subject.

Excellent post sir.kfhkh

natefrogg 11th August 2014 07:50 PM

i really enjoy listening while driving with a somewhat decent system in the car, long drives are the best for really focusing and listening for me

Rimwolf 11th August 2014 08:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by electrow (Post 10328854)
If music, a la carte, can't hold your attention from time to time you're definitely not an audiophile.

Basically a good post, except throwing "audiophile" in there raised my hackles. To me, an audiophile is someone who plays a recording and says "Listen to that bass!" (or worse, "soundstage".) A musicophile would say "Listen to this wonderful piece!"

enossified 11th August 2014 08:28 PM

I still like to listen to music sitting in a chair positioned in front of my speakers. I hear more over earbuds at work or when driving, though, just because that takes up 9+ hours five days a week.

What I really miss is the sound of surprise, hearing something that immediately excites me and makes me want to crank it up and hear it again. That still happens often when hearing live music, though, thank goodness.

robot gigante 12th August 2014 02:22 AM

I love firing up the sound system and doing nothing but listening to music. Or hanging out with friends and doing the same. I know I am not alone in this.

Have sworn off earbuds and data compression, it makes the experience unpleasant. Headphones, full resolution audio, yesss.

I think, maybe, many people accept too readily the music technology or experience that is marketed to them, which is not always geared toward the actual experience of enjoying music. Kind of a shame...

227861 12th August 2014 07:10 AM

Modern problem.....the amount of music is heavly saturated in advertisements. That has made music disposable short clips we hear, even great songs are reduced to use in some commercial or gimicky ad and it becomes a disposable experience, like using a cleanex. That cheapens music.

Also the internet has made it free and disposable just as people mentioned over stimulation.


Well I wouldn't say for everything, just for those experiences.

On the other hand, clubs breathe life into the listening experience and even enhance it. (my opinion)

tamiya 12th August 2014 08:12 AM

i can't really listen any longer. i just analyze it seems.

tsutek 12th August 2014 01:13 PM

I still listen to music like I've always did - load up something into the walkman, press play. It's like reading a good book sometimes. Only the walkman has changed, more capacity, better battery life, "transparent" playback sound.

Learning to regulate our desires etc is the biggest contemporary challenge IMO. There has always been crap and ways to lose the forest for the trees, guess it's just easier nowadays? Responsibility is ours alone.

I wouldn't blame the MP3 for anything. Which one is preferable, hearing a LQ version of a good song or not hearing it at all? Back in the day, russians used DIY methods for obtaining LQ copies of European/American music, it was the only way they could get to hear those songs.

165099 12th August 2014 02:23 PM

what you will find is that humanity has always flitted from one thing to the next but music's importance has been a constant, it just changes a bit.

once we sat around fires and sang songs and beat drums. once we went to cathedrals and concert halls and listened to choirs and orchestras. once we found joy in ballroom and square dancing. and so on and on...

here is a pic I took this morning or my living room. we've just moved in so I don't have any of the art up or even the cassette or record player connected yet, but as you can see a stereo is very prominently featured.

http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b7...ps8bb85fb9.jpg

and this is by no means anything "audiophile", it's a Sony system with JBL speakers and an AirportExpress to stream iTunes/Spotify but that's my living room (and Steve the cat)

now sure, in comparison there are few people who have the all-consuming interest in music which I (and I suspect many here) posses, but that is how it has always been. graphic art (in the fine art sense) used to be a major cultural force and it is no longer but that doesn't mean that people don't still paint and have gallery showings and that the average person doesn't appreciate art. it's just a temporary shift of focus and relevance. these days the masses, at least in the United States seem mostly occupied with television series, but that also isn't any different from history as these are just our new campfire stories.

on an almost daily basis I have co-workers talking about music with me, discussing things old and new that they've come across and would like to share. it's great that people now have the opportunity to buy/download music ala carte but that doesn't mean that people still aren't listening to albums. there's also the DJ mix which recontextualizes the idea of the single vs the album and with the growing popularity of "EDM" I imagine that is a thing of consideration.

as for my personal listening habits, I've always been a fan of the album. I like how one song moves into another and having that overarching picture and feeling of a complete work but I also enjoy just letting iTunes Genius or a steaming services such as Last.FM or Spotify's radio service pick for me songs which are related to whatever it is I'm in the mood for. then there are the times when I'm stuck in my car and I always either have NPR or the local college radio going, or as with late in the evening or early mornings perhaps I take the time to listen to a Podcast.

but this morning I just discovered that To Rococo Rot have a new album and it's making for a nice start to this day.

genetic92 12th August 2014 03:54 PM

Screw that ****. I am going to maje a concept album anyway **** mp3s single download and quick hype EP's with nothing to say. Choose the difficult longer path and stay focussed screw the cheap fastfood burgers you will only get ugly and fat anyways. Ooohh look at me everybody on the hype train i donnt giv a ****. Just make quality music even if this mean you will hav to eat noodles all day. I rather be true to myself than choose the cheap route and be a prostitute like most of the people in this world.