Top Whatever

I’m glad that I’m not the only one who’s wondered how Mike Skinner lost a sheath of bills amounting to a thousand pounds in a slot in his television. The reviewer at Pitchfork and I agree that it’s a terrific album (even if Pippa doesn’t like it), and I could understand if it were a check for £1000, but it sounds from the songs as though the sum really was in cash. Anyway, I thought that A Grand Don’t Come For Free was a terrific disc. Likewise the Fiery Furnaces’ Blueberry Boats and the Postal Service’s Give Up. I wasn’t swept away as many were by Franz Ferdinand, and don’t quite see the appeal of Morrissey (so You Are The Quarry drifted past me without making much of an impression). L liked what I heard of Modest Mouse’s Good News For People Who Like Bad News, but I haven’t listened to it thoroughly (same with A Ghost Is Born). I’m supposed to like both How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb and Around The Sun, but I haven’t had enough time with them for them to grow on me.

Here, Tom Coates’s brilliant insight into the future of recorded music applies: there just isn’t enough time to listen, when you can listen to almost anything you want. I try to listen broadly to the recorded music I’ve collected, rather than focusing on this or that album; if a track or an album doesn’t win attention-share pretty promptly, it goes into a random shuffle with tens of thousands of other selections. That marks a fundamental change from a time in which a broadcast medium could focus my attention on a relatively few tracks repeatedly for an interval, where I could not choose to listen to just-any track at almost any time, where there was (indeed) no function for listening to random tracks — any track one listened to had been selected in one way or another.

The ecology of musical performance (and other modes, if they’re paying attention) has changed in a tremendously important way. It’s not clear what that entails — does music now have to be catchy in order to survive? What agency, whose ears, will help sort the vast ocean of recorded music into attention-worthy work and disposable work (and for whom)? (Nate and Si help me, but not everyone has teenage sons) — but in this new ecology, some dinosaurs will perish, and making laws to keep obsolescent institutions and practices alive in a new media environment will not work any better than would laws to keep polar bears alive on Mercury.

1 comment / Add your comment below

  1. Agreed about the time thing. With a 40GB iPod, I can listen to just about anything any time, but with the 6,000+ songs on it, it would take about three weeks to play through them all just once each.

    However, it was really easy to pull together a 2 hour background Christmas music playlist for a party yesterday. Endless opportunities for customization.

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