I have been travelling a lot over the last few months (over 50,000 air miles actually) back and forth to Europe. A few of these trips have involved stays back in London. Before moving to LA, I had packed my entire CD collection into boxes to be put into storage. One particular trip to London lasted about two weeks and while darting here, there and everywhere in my old car around town, I had only one CD to listen to that just happened to be lying around. It’s not a CD I would have picked out immediately from my collection, nor a CD I was very familiar with, I had listened to it only once and not even in it’s entirety. But, I was stuck with it.
Well, over the course of the two weeks I must have listened to this CD, in full, over fifty times, maybe even more. When I was originally given the CD I immediately loaded it into my iTunes collection and forgot all about it. If it was not for being without my CD collection or iPod I would not have dug out this particular collection of music. I grew to really like the CD. I learned all of the songs and became thoroughly familiar with every detail of every tune. I enjoyed this experience and it reminded me of ‘the old days’ before iTunes and iPods when I would pick three or four CDs specifically for my car (which is where I did most of my listening) and they would sometimes stay in there for months allowing me to listen to albums from start to finish many, many times over and be able to know everything about any particular album just by looking at the cover.
Although there are some pluses to modern music consumption, I really miss CD’s. Now I buy directly from iTunes because a) it’s half the price and b) there are no record shops anymore. When I buy a digital song or album it just disappears into my humungous iTunes collection probably only to be found again by accident and I find I buy less music because of this experience.
I also miss the process of looking for and buying CD’s. I would often make dedicated trips into London to search for rare jazz records. Picking up a physical copy, looking at the artwork and pictures and reading about what players were featured and where it was recorded was great. The vast majority of iTunes purchases don’t seem to come with liner notes so I now have no information about the recording and have no idea who’s playing what. I used to buy CD’s all over the world (I still have all of them) and each one reminds me of specific places and times in my life when I listen to them. I can remember where I bought the CD, when it was, who I was with etc etc. I miss that.
The whole MP3 thing, along with the other new ways we consume media and entertainment, is without doubt, making attention spans shorter. Everyone is now glued to their phone which has everything on it – music, videos, messaging, emailing, GPS and we are constantly flicking from one thing to the next every few seconds. I think for a lot of people, the thought of sitting in a room and listening to one CD all the way through, for example, would freak them out.
On the other hand, one advantage of digital music that someone mentioned to me recently, which I hadn’t thought of, is that the younger generation are now able to walk around with fifty years worth of music in their back pocket, available on demand at all times – how will that affect their output as future musicians and composers compared to the generations before them that had such limited resources in comparison? Will it make them more or less inventive? That’s an interesting point, I think, but I still miss ‘the old days’.
How do you listen to music?