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Old 7th August 2014
  #1
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.