Dylan Goes Electric... Again... (Part 2)

Early on in the process, as I pumped disc after disc from my collection (all legally purchased) into iTunes, the thought occurred to me briefly that eventually I might run out of real estate. When one is told that one can place 20,000 songs onto an electronic device, the mind reels and cannot really discern whether one’s collection will fit onto that device. Or really, the mind doesn’t need to discern this, because for most people, 20,000 songs is far more than they actually possess in their collections. Filling up an 80gig iPod is not a concern, because it will take them eons to achieve it.

I know some people who breeze through life with the same 50 or 60 CDs in their collection (if that), and hit a record store once every six months or so to pick up something they read about in a review in People Magazine or the newspaper. (This is outside of the songs they must possess that they have heard over and over and over again on the noxious radio, hardly the best way to discover new music, and not a good way at all to discover listenable music. Brainwashing, and sadly, payola, work tremendously well...) Most people believe they are too busy to take the time and wander around a record store, perhaps checking out music in sections they might not normally be interested in; nor would they set about reading a brace of reviews on the same album in various publications to try and determine its overall worth or level of interest to them. These people, for the most part, are wrong: we all think we are too busy – we may even all be too busy for such nonsense – but there is not a person out there, no matter how actually busy, that doesn’t take the time for something that many people would consider foolish or nonsensical, but which that person considers necessary for their mental well-being. Everyone has something. So, when someone says to me that they “just don’t have the time” to expand their music collection, or the inclination, it says to me that music is not a priority to them. They may love music, and they may love the music that they have, but they have other priorities to which they must devote their time and effort and moolah. Or, taking the most negative course, they might be boring, unadventurous fucks…

I cannot live with only 50 or 60 CDs. This might prove to be a good starting point for my very favorite albums, but I can’t have only 50 or 60 CDs, to the same degree that I just can’t live with just two fistfuls of DVDs. I need new music in my life the same way that I need to see new movies on a consistent basis. I still listen to many of the artists that I listened to when I was a teenager, but instead of being stuck in a certain decade or loving only the music of my youth, I have to travel through musical history both fore and aft. I love to discover old weird things that I never heard before, and I love to find current artists that step out of the mind-numbing conformity of popular music and give a little pleasing twist to my earlobes. I need a wide variety of music in my life – not any type of music, but at least a variety of many styles – and all I require is that it is good.

So, over 30 years of record-buying, I have a collection of the aforementioned amount of almost 2000 CDs, and well over 3000 albums all told. I have more music than anyone could rightly listen to for the rest of their life. Even given the fact that there are several handfuls of albums that I purchased that turned out to well nigh unlistenable duds, or have many albums that were given to me in which I have no vested interest, this is still a lot of music. And now, with the purchase of an iPod, I will now give myself more opportunity than ever to listen to those albums that I do enjoy. But the question remains… what will I listen to? I have space for 20,000 songs, but as I have said previously, due to the extreme length of some tracks, this number is currently maxed out at around 16,300. What happens, as it did yesterday when I downloaded seven new albums from eMusic, when I get new music? Right now, I have no room to add these albums. What songs do I excise from my new precious baby?

And how will I listen to this music? I have always been an album guy. A song is not just a song; it is one of a connected series of tracks on an record, each one flowing, despite the silent gaps in between, into the next song, both on the disc and in my head. The closing line of one song on an album starts up the next track that follows. Part of my problem with radio is how when a song that I deeply care for ends, I long to hear the next song on the album, but then a song from a completely different artist, often in a different style or mood, will follow up, shattering my reverie from the previous song. The randomness of radio, which some see as a time-shrinking comfort, is darkly chilling to me. It speaks to me of an uncaring programmer who doesn’t see fit to this listener’s needs. “Just another record… just another record…”

With the iPod, I can now load all of these albums into one place, allowing myself to hear any of them at the slightest whim. Got a song from the Cars’ Candy-O stuck in your head? I did the other day, as I've Got A Lot on My Head (and Most of It Is You) went in a continuous loop around my cerebral cortex for about three hours at work, and while it used to be that the only way for me to dislodge it from the brain would be to go home and, because I am an album guy, play it straight through. Now, I sent out an iPod strike force at the song by taking a break and hitting the song right away. Best of all, by hooking my iPod up to my computer, I can also instantly find a large portion of my collection at once, without taking up precious space on my Mac. These are probably its ultimate gifts, to me, at least: providing major boosts in accessibility, convenience and storage conservation.

But can the iPod actually change the way that I listen to music? Despite my initially stubborn insistence to the contrary, it already has…

Comments

matt fosberg said…
I like this topic, Rik, and I think you have some very keen insights here. We both know that it was YOU that introduced me to one of my favorite artists, Warren Zevon, and I've always taken your opinion on music seriously, even when I haven't agreed with it.

I have found that my iPod has made me LESS open to new music, not that I spent a lot of time before listening to new stuff, but the normal avenues I used I don't anymore. I don't go to the record store, I don't talk with people about music as much anymore, and I don't listen to the radio as much anymore.

Some things that help me find music are Pandora.com, and, strangely, making mix albums with Wayne (we call them "utes" albums for reasons too long to go into here), but I find myself listening to my iPod most of the time, with around 5000 songs on it. I AM one of those guys you talk about with 50 to 60 CDs, until iTunes and the web came along, and now I have much greater access.

It will be interesting to see where this goes.

Matt
ak_hepcat said…
And I'm stuck somewhere in the middle.

I think my CD collection is probably about 2/3's yours, but I don't have the collection of acetates you do - maybe 20 or so.

When i first got my mp3 player, 20gb, it was great. I could load in my faves - then i splurged and bought a 60g drive, so i could load the majority of my collection, albeit at a low bit-rate so that it could all fit.

I did find that when I had my full collection, I didn't seek out new music as quickly. And when my mp3 player died, that void was quickly filled by me surfing the airwaves looking for new music. Too much drek out there, but there was an occasional glimmer.

And now, with my 4g ipod mini, i'm back to just my favorites again - things i like to sing along with in the truck, or that we all play music to. And i find that i'm okay with that, since I found a new venue for new music... playing live jams.

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