20 September 2007

Buying and Listening Habits

In talking to several acquaintances recently, I have learned that most of them have at least one quirk when it comes to their CD buying and/or listening habits that seems very counterintuitive to me.

I know someone who buys lots of CD's and listens to them only a few times. Schoenberg said that to like something one must first be able to remember it; probably too broad of a generalization, but certainly one that I find myself identifying with most of the time. In any case, if you can't remember it at all, how's that any different from never having listened to it in the first place? It's also good to give everything a fair shot; early on especially, I found that things that sounded "weird" at first I often ended up far more attached to in the end than the things I liked right away. This, however, is changing the more experience I gain; nowadays, my early reaction is much more indicative of my eventual "final" judgment.

I know someone who has almost stopped buying recorded music completely. This seems very strange to me. The more you know, the more you don't know, right? New recordings are being made at an alarming rate, and this only adds to an already staggering cumulative body of work that is available. The more music one is exposed to, the more one becomes aware of what one hasn't heard. It starts to appear unmanageable sometimes, but rather than get discouraged, it comes to seem even more imperative that one continue to investigate. Time is running out, you know? I can't imagine living without hope of anything interesting ever materializing again. That would really suck.

I know someone who does not expect a CD to last more than a couple of years. Many concerns have emerged about the durability of CD's. I treat mine poorly, and yet I have had no problems yet that were not due to gross neglect (i.e. major scratches and scuffs). My earliest computer burned CD's have also held up quite well considering that they are supposed to have a much shorter life span than their commercially produced counterparts. I'll be holding my breath as the oldest among my CD collection enter their second decade.

I know someone whose CD collection is heavily weighted towards only a few favorite artists. Conversely, back when I was starting from scratch, I figured that I ought to focus on breadth rather than depth simply because there was so much out there. I figured that I could start to specialize after I got a decent idea of what I was dealing with in the first place. I seem to recall developing this approach based largely on what I was hearing and reading from jazz pedagogy, although come to think of it, I can't place the exact source right now. I seem to think that Aebersold advocates this somewhere, but I'm not sure. Lo and behold, I have stuck to this mindset for almost a decade and the sum total of all recorded music seems more unmanageable than ever. I've also found that, according to acquaintances, this is probably my oddest quirk as a consumer of recorded music; nonetheless, I plan to stick by it for a while to come. The toughest issue is posed by major figures who have reinvented themselves multiple times: Miles Davis, Anthony Braxton, Gyorgy Ligeti, etc. One does not simply pick one CD by one of these artists and call it a representative sample, so essentially, you end up counting music from different periods of the artist's career as if it were made by different people. There's so much out there that you're going to miss some of it no matter what. If nothing else, the creative process demands stimulation (if not downright influence), and I think my approach works well in this way. I also think that there's a certain amount of professional obligation to be aware of what's out there, as well as to stay abreast of new developments (if not as a player or writer, than at least as a teacher).

Finally, check out the comment to here. Critics selling their review copies of CD's before the official release of the album? You'd expect there to be an unwritten rule against this in the profession, but either it doesn't exist at all, or it isn't a sufficient deterrent. I guess chronic exposure to less-than promising releases leads some critics become so cynical about musicians that they have no conscience about this.

What are some of your buying and listening quirks?

1 comment:

Jeff said...

I'll often get stuff from eMusic and only listen to it once or twice. I use my eMusic account as a fairly inexpensive way to explore, and much of the stuff I download is just out of curiosity, and never with any intent to really study or absorb it, although some things have grabbed me and moved farther into the listening rotation.

Lately I have been buying downloads much more than physical CDs.