Listening versus collecting

peanuts several hearings

[This is something I wrote on my Dreamwidth account this weekend but thought I’d revise it and post it here as well.  I don’t repost all that often, but figured this was something worth talking about here at WiS.]

I was thinking recently about the way I’ve been listening to music over the last few years. No big surprise there.

As far as expensive habits go, at least I’m not collecting cars that I won’t drive, or picking up housewares that I’ll never use. And I’ve always been pretty frugal about it, very rarely spending an absurd amount in one go.  I’ve gotten pretty good at finding sweet deals.  The more tunage I can get for my money, the happier I am.

But at the same time, I know I’ve made some purchases over the years where I’d probably have been better off streaming instead of buying, or maybe purchasing an album track or two.  These are albums that I liked but don’t listen to all that often.  Sometimes it’s the sound of the band that fascinates me, but the song or album as a whole doesn’t make an impression.  In the past, these would have been cds that I most likely would have brought to the record store in exchange for credit, but as I’m mostly a downloader these days, that method is impossible.

I was also thinking about some of the radio stations I’ll listen to online. There are some that have an interesting mix that keeps my interest, and there are others that adhere to a set rotation to the point where I get bored easily.  One particular station I’m thinking of was a favorite of mine, but now I rarely listen to them because they’ve been playing the same songs for the past 2-3 years that I’m not really a fan of.  As a former radio person, I understand the idea of set rotation, but it needs to be recycled after a few months otherwise you’ll lose a portion of your audience who really doesn’t want to hear that same damn Lumineers song for the 374,539,453rd time.

I also feel like I’m not quite immersed in the sounds when my listening habits are stretched too thin. Don’t get me wrong, there are some years where a ton of great albums come out and I love them all, but there’s only so many hours in the day where I can listen to the albums. Not to mention that I’m not listening to current albums all the time…sometimes I want to listen to something from a few decades ago, or a different genre altogether. For instance, I’ve been listening to the Beatles channel on SiriusXM lately because a) c’mon, it’s the Beatles, and b) it was a refreshing change from all the noise I’ve been trying to escape.

Perhaps my collecting habits are getting the best of me. There are moments where I’ll be a little too focused on trying to find a band’s entire discography and not enough on their music. The idea that I’d listen to their full work is there, but it doesn’t always work out…it really does depend on how connected I am to the music. I never really wanted to be a music collector for the sake of owning something — I find that a bit wasteful and pointless. This is precisely why I’ll pass on collectibles if I already own the songs.

Is this partly due to wanting to recapture the excitement of turning to a station and hearing favorite songs? Who knows. It might be part of it. But it’s definitely my collecting habits getting the best of me. I need to rein them in again.  I love buying albums on release days, but I don’t necessarily have to do so.  That’s partly why I signed up for Amazon Prime, so I could stream the albums where I’m on the fence.

This of course doesn’t mean that I’m giving up buying music I love; it’s merely that I need to be smarter about it.

Why I’m an avid listener

maxell blown away

Image courtesy of that classic 1983 Maxell commercial.

I’ve been thinking about this lately.  I’ve been drawn toward music since I was a little kid.  I’d hang out down in the basement where my dad would work on his local history files, and he’d always have the radio on.  The car radio would be on when we went on vacations or road trips.  I’d listen to the albums and singles my elder sisters would buy from the local department store.  And of course come 1978, I started collecting Beatles albums and singles.  It only expanded exponentially from there.  I was part of the generation brought up on MTV and remember watching that channel for hours on end.

Nowadays I’ll have an album from my mp3 collection playing while I write, or streaming a station during my Day Job hours.  I have playlists for my novels.  I still make mixtapes.  I’ve been known to listen to the same album multiple times, usually at the gym or working on a specific stretch of a novel project.  There’s hardly a time when I don’t have something playing in the background.  [Ironically, however, I don’t have anything playing at the moment while I write this.]

Is it really about obsession?  Is it an addiction, for that matter?  Maybe a bit of both.  But I’d like to think there are deeper reasons than that.

For instance, I love the effect that music has on me creatively.  I taught myself how to write a scene by imitating the framework of a song.  [As mentioned before, I call this the Miami Vice method of writing.]  The moods of certain tracks will provide me with ideas and settings for what I might be writing about.

I also love the effect it has on me emotionally.  I got through a lot of my high school years listening to college rock on my headphones.  It’s gotten me through a lot of emotional ups and downs over the years.  And recently I started getting choked up hearing one of my all-time favorite classical pieces, the famous second movement of Barber’s String Quartet in B minor, Op 11 (aka the Adagio), performed live at the SF Symphony Hall.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how it affects me in a physical way as well.  I have a very strange sense of hearing; I have a really good sense of spatial hearing (the ability to figure out the relative direction and location origin of a sound), but at the same time I sometimes have a tough time filtering out unnecessary noise (I can’t always clearly hear what someone says, for instance, at a very loud restaurant).  And I’m pretty sure I have an extremely light case of tinnitus from all the tunage I’d listened to with headphones over the years.

I started thinking that perhaps one of the reasons I still listen to a lot of music is that it’s my own personal way of filtering.  Some people use white noise generators, some people use noise-cancelling headphones, and so on.  I have music to let my subconscious focus on something so the rest of me can focus on whatever needs focusing at that moment.  This would also explain the sometimes amusing habit some people have of turning off the car radio when trying to get to their destination in a place they’re unfamiliar with.  I know I’ve done that in the past.  It’s also the reason I have to turn things down if A. talks with me, because otherwise all the sounds will blend together and I’ll miss out on something.

Still, I have to say the most important reason, at least for me, is that I just enjoy the hell out of it.

 

 

 

Meanwhile, 40 years ago…

Yesterday afternoon, A and I headed to the Alamo Drafthouse to see the 40th Anniversary of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I barely remember going to see it the first time out, considering I was six years old (I either saw it at the drive-in or in Gardner, the same place I saw Star Wars), though I do remember bits of it when watching it on TV in later years.

Of course, this made me think of all the music that I’d heard about that time, mostly on the little crackly radio that was in the kitchen for years. I remember the above ‘disco version’ of the Close Encounters theme, as we owned the album and the single.

So let’s see…what other songs do I remember from that era? [This obviously doesn’t include the classic punk from that era, which was way off my radar for quite a few more years.] A lot of these were singles my sisters bought, or tunes that we’d hear on the radio. This of course was back when AM was still the preferred listening band, so most of these I associate with either listening on my cheapo record player or on the car radio whenever we went for a ride. [Or in some cases, the jukebox at Bellinger’s!]

…hey, what can I say? I was six years old. I loved this stuff. :p

For What It’s Worth

It’s been a busy weekend here in the Bay Area.

We weren’t part of the marches or the protests here, though. Had the one in Crissy Field not been cancelled by the Patriot Prayer group on Saturday, we most likely would have made our way through the Presidio to head down there. So instead we drove down to Half Moon Bay, stopped at the Main Street Grill for brunch, did a bit of shopping at the deli there, and then headed back. We spent the afternoon watching various episodes of Time Team and other things. As it happens, the PP guys’ plans fizzled spectacularly, ending up with an online chat and a pathetic appearance at Crissy Field after all (with the reporters and cameras outnumbering them). The rest of the city, on the other hand, turned it into a party and a love fest.

As for Sunday, we knew better than to head over to the East Bay. They’re a bit more hardcore when it comes to protests, and there’s always that small group of outsiders who stop by just to stir shit up and make the more peaceful protesters look bad. The mood is usually much more tense when there are protests there.

Meanwhile, we kept our eyes out for our friends down in Texas. One of A’s friends was actually not in Houston but elsewhere at a wedding, leaving her husband to hold the fort. They’re both doing okay last I heard. They’re on the outskirts of the city on higher ground. The city itself turned into its own Vienna with streets turning into creeks and rivers. Downtown Houston is quite nice, from what I remember of it, having visited there a few years ago when Worldcon was in San Antonio. It was hot as hell, but I really liked the city.

And during all that, The Fuckwit tweeted about Missouri, a book he really liked, that goddamn wall he’s so obsessed about, and hating NAFTA because Canada and Mexico are being mean to him. He may have tweeted about Houston at some point, but as far as I could tell, it was little more than ‘wow that doesn’t look good’ and went on to the next shiny object.

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down.

Fly-by: N do I need apostrophe T need this torture

Remember when I said that various systems at my Day Job usually go all kerflooey when I go away on vacation? Well, surprisingly enough none did.

But as of yesterday, our email server has decided to flush all the many and intertwining sorting rules down the loo so everything, from requests to reports to auto-replies and everything else lands in our main Inbox.

Which means that my particular job, which happens to be quite email-heavy, is currently now twice as slow and twice as much of a pain in the ass. Which means I’ve been working straight out all day long.

So this means a fly-by. I happen to be listening to a bunch of albums from 1986 at the moment (currently playing as I write this: The Mighty Lemon Drops’ Happy Head) and of course the most excellent debut from They Might Be Giants was part of this listening experience. The video above sold me on them from the start and I’ve been a big fan since.

Hopefully I’ll have something of more substance next week. Sorry about that!

Drunken Owl

IMG_20170709_141703

It’s not the fanciest gear, but it does its job.

First, here’s a video of The Smithereens playing “Blood and Roses”, one of their first hits and one of my favorite bass lines of the 80s:

Whenever I’m in a guitar store and checking out basses, I usually use that riff to test it out. It’s a relatively easy lick (even if technically it’s dropped down a half-step to E-flat) and if I can pull it off without my fingers cramping, then it’s a bass I can use.   I’m posting it here because it’s also a riff that I like to use when I’m practicing.

So what’s the deal here? Drunken Owl? What?

That’s the name of my current music project, named from the 18th century British slang term “drunk as an owl” (thanks to A.’s wide-spanning reading material for the source). It’s one of those phrases that doesn’t quite sound right logically, but makes for a good band name.

I’ve been meaning to return to playing and recording music demos for quite some time, though, like with most of my other grand creative plans, it was put aside so I could finish the Great Trilogy Revision Project.  So!  Now that that behemoth is out of the way, I can finally move forward with it.  I don’t plan on any grand masterpieces or anything…all I really want to do is lay down my songs.  I’ve amassed a decent amount of them over the years, and I’m itching to write and record some new ones as well.

And like my books, I want to see how far I can DIY it.  I’ve recorded a few demos on my phone, for starters.  [The sound is mono, but the quality is actually pretty good, considering!]  I plan on using the instruments I have already: the basses, the guitars, the keyboard, the funky lo-fi drum pad (it’s hiding behind my camera bag on the floor under the keyboard in that picture up top), and maybe some slightly better (but still relatively cheap) editing-mixing software.

Any plans on releasing them on Bandcamp or whatever?  Eh, probably not, but we’ll see.  I may just upload them to Soundcloud and share them here or elsewhere.  The main reason for this ongoing project is mainly to make good on my lifelong loves of writing, music, and art.  [Yeah, I’m trying to get my art up and running again as well.]  The main goal here is to have fun with it!

[Edit: Just learned this morning that Soundcloud is going kerflooey.  Guess I’ll have to find a different embedder!]