Listening to music has always been a part of my life. I’ve listened to learn, to have fun, to set the mood, to dance, to remember better times, even to stop a panic attack while riding the PATH train. In college I listened on headphones and computer speakers, at my family home I listened on my father’s stereo system in the front room, now I listen on a little Bose speaker and noise-reducing headphones. When I look back on moments of my life, I can vividly remember the soundtrack that accompanied them. The Sonny Clark / Grant Green Blue Note sessions represent my first year at college and in NYC, Bird with Strings represents my childhood, Horace Silver’s “Stylings of Silver” reminds me of my last year of college. I’ve always been an obsessive listener – listening to one album for weeks at a time, sometimes even months, until I find something else to obsess over. I used to spend hours perusing record stores (remember them?!) and then online retailers looking for a new record, a new sound that I could fall in love with. I would share these records with my friends and family, endlessly talk about them: “was that an edit?” “is the piano player lost?” “was that ending rehearsed?”
And then…..one day I stopped. Actually, it wasn’t one day. It didn’t happen suddenly. It just faded over time. I remember falling in love with Thad Jones “Motor City Scene” sometime around 2006….and then maybe Sarah Vaughan “Sassy Swings the Tivoli” around 2009. And since then….not much. People ask me, “What are you listening to now?” I can tell them, sure, but I can’t say that anything is currently changing my life.
Normally, this wouldn’t bother me. Phases happen. That’s okay. But the more I think about it, the more I think there are a few real reasons I am a less obsessive listener than I used to be.
I miss being able to listen to music in a comfortable and inviting setting. Growing up in Oklahoma we had thousands of LPs and thousands of CDs in the living room, big comfortable couches, and my piano in case I wanted to check a key or transcribe something. My father and I spent hours listening to music in that house. But now, in my studio apartment in NY, things just aren’t as comfortable or inviting. And people are busy. My father is busy and my friends are busy, and no one has time to come over and just LISTEN to music anymore. We rehearse. We have business meetings. But we don’t just LISTEN.
In fact, most of my focused listening happens in the car on the way to gigs or just running errands. This is also one of my favorite reasons to go on tour in the USA – hours and hours of driving time means hours and hours of uninterrupted listening (and also a probable stop at the Jazz Record Mart in Chicago).
Also, I really miss CDs and LPs. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my iPod. But it’s just less pleasurable for me to pick an album by scrolling through a tiny screen. I miss the tactile sensation of flipping through physical copies of of albums. I like looking at the artwork. I like reading liner notes and seeing personnel. I like the physical sensation of playing a CD or LP. I am not a iPod-button-pushing kind of girl. It is LESS FUN. And let’s face it, listening to music should be about having fun!
How about you? Has technology or a lifestyle change disrupted your listening habits? Have an album to recommend? Any tips for getting back in the “groove”? Sound off in the comments –