Mind Gardens

It’s a world of sound bites, nothing is more apparent as we enter the week of the presidential debates starting. It was even a day when Bill O’Reilly said the word zinger. So as information gets more compressed to almost meaningless moments held separate from context or meaning I have to ask the question:

When was the last time you listened to the whole album?

Of course in the i-tunes world we can choose the playlist or let the genius button do it for us, We don’t have to appreciate the running order or track list, the artistry of compiling a whole  piece an experience if you like. Also there appear to be more greatest hits packages than ever before allowing us to only hear the songs that the compiler considers greatest. With artists that specialized in the long extended album this can get difficult and don’t mention the box set and what that has done to us. Then there is the extended, repackaged album with extras and extras on top of the extras. We have chopped, cut up, compressed compiled and boxed our way so far away from the listening experience it is hard to know if any one knows what the album used to mean.

Don’t get me wrong I love my i-pod with it’s playlists and random play function as much as the next person obsessed with technology. I was excited when technology allowed us to burn our own compilations on CD and the mp3 playlist in the car is a life saver at times. I have to admit though that I have gone away from listening to the album in order, the ebb and flow of the music as it unveils itself the way the artist compiled it, with no extras or outtakes. I don’t miss the crackle of old vinyl though but I do miss the album sleeves with their art work and folds and creases and information.

I miss music being a shared experience now we are all plugged into our ear buds and private worlds. We share playlists on spotify and social networking sites rather than passing around albums or inviting a friend over to hang out and listen. I remember when Blind by the Icicle Works was released gathering in a dingy smoky room to play the record. We played it three times that night trying to make sense of the various stylistic turns the band were making on every cut. We did the same when Dave bought Sheikh Yerbouti by Zappa, laughing at the coarse humor and wondering at the music, there was eight of us in the room talking laughing and arguing about the music. Last week I bought Tempest by Dylan, well I downloaded it, listened on ear buds and then told my son he should put it on his     i-pod. At no point have we played it together or talked about the music or lyrics.

This weekend I was in the library and found 1000 Recording You Should Listen to Before You Die by Tom Moon, he has a blog here:

http://www.1000recordings.com/

Looking at the book I thought about changing my listening habits. For a year I am only going to listen to whole albums. Maybe not the list in the book but albums I find important to me. I am going to rediscover old favorites, listen to new recordings and maybe even invite some friends over to listen along at times. I am going to play albums as I cook, drive and hang out.  I am going to limit the use of ear buds to walks, runs and mowing the lawn, I am going to share the music with the people I love and talk about it again, I may even keep a record at times here if I remember.

This weeks list so far:

John Adams-Harmonium

King Sunny Ade-Best of the classic years

Ryan Adams-Heartbreaker

Frank Zappa-One Size Fits All

Mumford and Sons-Babel

The Byrds-Younger Than Yesterday

Fela Kuti-Confusion-Gentleman

Crosby Stills and Nash-1st Album

Of Monsters and Men-My Head Is an Animal

I played some of these twice it was so much fun.

I also began Neil Young’s autobiography/memoir Waging Heavy Peace which is one of the most unusually written books I have ever read. It really is liking sitting down with Neil and having a conversation. In reality if there was one artist I would love to do this with it would be Neil Young, although I would undoubtedly be so tongue tied I would never ask a question never mind actually remembering any of it.

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