Listening to Music – Did it used to be more fun?

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… 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 –

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12 Responses to Listening to Music – Did it used to be more fun?

  1. Pingback: Is Jazz Losing Its Foothold In the Big Apple? | The Undisputed Champian

  2. Renée Yoxon says:

    I feel exactly the same way about listening. I don’t know if my attention span is lower than it used to be but I just don’t sit around my apartment listening anymore. I definitely do the majority of my listening in the car. Since I have to drive between Ottawa and Montreal every week this is ok but I wonder when it changed? Maybe it also has to do with the fact that there is SO MUCH MUSIC available now. I can listen to every album ever on Spotify or any song I want on youtube or grooveshark. When I was a kid I had a pretty small selection to choose from and it made the choice a lot easier.


  3. Roger says:

    Back in the day, which goes back to the late 1970s, getting “the crew” together to listen to records, play cards, drink beer, etc. was our normal regular social activity. This includes the weekend camping trips where we had the cassette player going. “The crew” has moved on, but it is still what we do: put on a ballgame, turn off the sound and play records. One thing that changed is that folks just don’t have the home stereo systems anymore, the music just became a mobile phenomenon. The video systems took over home entertainment, music became what one did in the car, while exercising, etc. I can’t imagine having folks over to listen to records anymore, even folks like me that make listening a major part of the day


  4. Laurie McCullough says:

    I love listening to music while I’m cooking or doing dishes, cleaning house, or exercising. We kept Darryl’s dad’s phonograph, and our favorite LPs when we retired and moved. We still have tons of CDs, but I put most of them on my iPod, and now I mostly prefer my playlists — that way I skip all the tunes I don’t like. I just keep the iPod plugged in to the computer, and we have a pair of Bose speakers on the computer. Some of my playlists are called “Ballads”, “Blues”, “Ella”, Errol Garner”, “Shirley Scott”, “Joe Williams”, “Sonny Stitt”, “Champian”, “Dave Stewart”, and one called “Oklahoma Musicians”. We have your dad, and Morris on CD/iPod from the Jimmy D’s Pieces Club days. I also listen to classical sometimes: I have many favorites. I feel sorry for my friends who are college music professors. They teach so much classical piano that it isn’t fun for them to listen in their leisure time. Most of our friends since we moved to Florida are people who grow fruits and vegetables, and eat the same healthy diet that we do. None are really into music… But I love my listening! Darryl and I do Youtube listening sessions sometimes. He LOVES Errol Garner, Jobim, Chet Baker. But I do feel the need to find new things to listen to, also.


  5. Lawrence says:

    Good read Champian, I too used to invest much time and money into finding and buying music but for some reason that seems to have slowly fizzled out. It’s also amazing (and sad really) to think the notion of inviting friends over to listen to music seems so alien these days.

    Anyhow, I tend to get my fix now listening to the radio. Here’s a gem from the UK if you’re able to stream it where you are, BBC 6 music. Fantastic station, plays an amazing range of diverse music old and new, it’s on pretty much all the time at my place.


  6. Lynn goucher says:

    I used to listen to favorite recordings obsessively too. Life got so busy I relegated it to commuting time. I loved driving with the radio on or popping in a favorite cd. It was the only time I could relax and just be myself. I listen to music at home now that I’m “retired” but it’s just as much for instructional purposes as for listening pleasure. Once in awhile I’ll throw a favorite cd on while I’m cleaning the house or stripping wallpaper or doing some other DIY project. usually something with stephane Grappelli or Miles Davis. I have a favorite cd of Brazilian Bossa nova too. I’ve made a conscious decision to see as much live music as possible. There is a lot going on here. Not like where we used to live. A lot of it is free or no cover charge. recordings are great but nothing inspires me more than experiencing it live.


  7. Jon-Erik says:

    Well said, Champian and Katie. This all resonates with me. I miss the days of going to a friend’s place or having a group of friends over to listen to music, playing DJ, turning them on to things they haven’t heard, or reminding them of great artists or sides they haven’t listened to in a while. The modern day version of this for me and many is sharing music via facebook, with YouTube videos and whatnot. That’s pretty fun, but nothing is like the tactile and socially rewarding experiences of THE HANG. Not to mention going out to hear live music with (or without) friends. Hard to get people to take the time for hanging out, everyone is so busy (or at least the feel like they are), and out of the habit of hanging. And I, too, reeeeeally miss spending hours in record stores finding treasures, taking chances on unknown artists or albums.
    I DO however still occasionally discover artists or even entire genres or styles of music I was not hip to, and that is always exciting.


  8. Lacy! says:

    I know that I’ve gone through a similar change. In 2006, I had an apartment fire that took all of my music. I had three towers of “everything” , one tower of just Jazz, and a giant flip book full of all kinds of stuff. Not to mention boxes of tapes, and personal recordings. It will take me a lifetime to replace all of those. Now I just have maybe a couple dozen cd’s, of which three are you…lol! Anyway, I listen to my iPod, or Pandora, and even if it’s the same artist, it’s still random selections from albums. I miss listening to entire albums dearly, and I think I don’t listen as much because of this loss. It’s just simply out of my reach right now. I listen/learn songs in the car, on the way to gigs as a rule. Just sitting around listening doesn’t happen enough, and now that I’m aware of it, I hope to change that as much as possible. I have raided the local used cd bin a few times, but there’s not much there. I just gotta buck up, and spend some money! ;D


    • Lacys thanks so much for your comment. I remember when the fire happened. 😦 I’m so sorry – that really is sad. Pandora is GREAT for finding new albums, I agree. Maybe you could find some people who want to swap hard drives. In New York a lot of musicians do that to expand their “record” collections and hear new things.


  9. Katie Khaos says:

    For me, it’s all about finding new music. Well, new to me, anyways. Each payday, I make it a point to download a couple of new albums. I’m a big fan of Amazon’s 100 $5 Albums, and they’re new each month. I also download free tracks from bands I’ve never heard of. I end up buying about 6-10 albums a month, and then I put it all in my cloud drive and listen to it on shuffle. When a track catches my ear, I listen to the whole album, usually obsessively. I love finding something I never would have picked out but absolutely love. I analyze the chords and progressions until I can’t listen to it anymore. And then I move on to something new. I also go to record stores and shop the bargain bins and garage sales for cool old vinyl. Sometimes I just buy it because the cover is awesome or something about it strikes me. It doesn’t always work out, but I’ve been more positively surprised than negatively.


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