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Filed under: music, reviewed | Tags: barbara & ernie, beach fossils, george strait, listening, little green apples, o.c. smith, techniques
More and more in the digital age, music enthusiasts have complained of gluts in their collections. What was once the strict provenance of high-browed critics and DJs— the ability to scratch one’s chin and self-importantly wonder, “what shall I listen to today?”— is now the conundrum of the avid consumer. We have hard drives full of gigabytes of music we may never listen to, and yet our dopamine receptors twitch at the prospect of acquiring more.
As the now decades-old failure of physical music media— corresponding with a pitched rise in sources for cheap and free digital music— turns us all into critics and curators, it’s only logical that consumers would begin to develop their own artistic and empirical criteria for listening, enjoying and sharing. With that in mind, I’d like to share a couple of tools I’ve used to wade these waters. In the realm of pop music, which is to say, audio pieces structured as songs between two and ten minutes long, I’ve found these strategies remarkably dependable.
The first is a bit of a no-brainer with a finite twist: If a song does not grab me within about one minute and 30 seconds, I move on. Of course, we all make aesthetic valuations of pop songs by playing them from the beginning, but do we do so for a full minute and a half? I didn’t always. Vocals with an Eddie Vedder-like husk or guitars that sounded like mid-’70s Eagles would have me scrambling for the “next” button in five to ten seconds. Now, with the exception of the horror-inducing, I’ll wait these out.
What happens in this 1:30? Invariably and in different combinations, a number of things:
- An introduction comes to its end, and “the groove” starts. Take for example O.C. Smith’s “Little Green Apples:”
- One or two verses end, and the chorus ties the song together:
- A bridge or new (non-chorus) section redeems or reinforces the beginning (this one happens for me at 1:40— like I say, it’s approximate):
- A break (often after a chorus or verse) winds up the tension:
This listening technique has led me to believe that most pop songs have a tipping point in time, a “fish or cut bait” moment where the artist must act to keep the listener engaged. And if an artist proceeds past this mark, he or she better have already done something wholly compelling for me to continue on.
Do you have certain strategies for wading the high volume of music out there? How do you manage your listening experience without limiting it? In my next post, I’ll take a look at how harmony guides me through my collection.
I really don’t see any way around blogging this:
Further reading: Leonard Nimoy in The Mysterious Golem
This will be a quieter, acoustic set of Hebrew School songs, maybe even some new ones.
376 9th Street (at 6th Ave.)
May 16, 2010, 7pm
This year’s May Day started in Union Square and then marched down Broadway to Foley Square, where a rally was held.
May Days past.
If you’re looking for me, I might be on my tumblr.