14 October 2008

Walking and Chewing Gum

I did something earlier today that I haven't done for several years. Before leaving for work, I grabbed my Discman, popped in a CD, and donned my headphones. This used to be the normal routine during college when I seemingly spent hours each day walking. I did a lot of productive listening that way, and got to know many recordings and pieces intimately.

Since then, I haven't really had to do much walking, and hence, my listening has been relegated largely to the home. When I got my car (complete with CD player), I made a conscientious effort to replicate what used to be my walking routine, but found that the car (when it is running, at least) is simply too noisy a place to listen to anything interesting. The fact that I purposely try to avoid using if at all possible also meant that it didn't contribute much time to the cause. (I read somewhere a while ago that, statistically, the number one "venue" for listening to classical music is the car, which is tragic, but not the least bit surprising).

My current "day job" affords me the choice of biking, driving or taking public transit, and when I do the latter, I have a 15-20 minute walk to account for. Strangely, I've heretofore been uninspired to use this walk as listening time; somehow, all that walking in college burned me out on the idea (although I still find it impossible not to pace while listening at home). Now that I've tried it, I've encountered some unexpected problems. For one, the streets I take are busy, and hence, loud; as chaotic as a sprawling college campus can be, it appears in hindsight that the noise pollution was bearable, or at least more so than a legion of assorted motor vehicles is. There are also problems left over even from years ago that I never completely solved: how to fill 15-20 minutes without having to break off in the middle of a track, how to store headphones in a backpack such that they don't get destroyed, and so on.

As burned out as I sometimes get on playing and composing (and blogging), I don't ever see the same thing happening to listening, which is quite literally "what it's all about" in music. That there's so little time for it has always been frustrating, and hence, I would very much like to be able to steal a bit of time back from commuting, housework, and the like. As well as this served me for several years, there's no denying that when there's something else going on, it is much easier to hear music than it is to actually listen to it. When I was in high school, I remember a faculty member at a summer music camp pointing out that the kid who was, arguably, the best player out of the whole group was also the only one of us who had headphones permanently draped around his neck. Now that I'm (also arguably) an adult and (more arguably) a professional, I've decided that quality is more important to me than quantity when it comes to listening, though I wish I didn't have to choose.

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