It remained in the days when a specific jazz radio station regularly cannot back-announce manya lot of the tracks it played that I began to considerto think about the possibility that Ihad spent my whole life listening to tape-recorded music in thewrong method. That intriguing record that had already begun when Ituned in? Itwould forever stay a mystery. I couldn’t go out and buy it, orfit it nicely into the organogram of musical development that all severe fans carry around in their heads. So I learned to give up the lifelong desire to fit every piece of music into an ever-expanding taxonomy. All of a sudden removed of context, the music was simply there to be appreciated for itself, in the minute, in the method we nab it prior to understanding establishes filters to shape our reactions.
For a member of a generation of lovers accustomed to gathering and classifying music with a curator’s rigour, this came as a shock. That rigour constantly appeared a slightly perverse response to music of black American origin, the spontaneity and informality of which had set postwar Britain freedevoid of a set of acquired cultural restraints. However it made it seem obligatory to possess the total works not just of the evident individuals – in my case Ornette Coleman, Bob Dylan, Curtis Mayfield, Terry Riley and so on – but also of figures valued for their obscurity. Eventually, when the record industry was practically on its last legs, itspotted my generation’s continuing weakness and discovered ways to feed it. Whereas the desire to own every 45 launched on the Motown label in its first10 years had actually as soon as been a helpless dream, a really costly and carefully curated series of multi-disc sets brought that aspiration within reach. That nobody who is now under, say, 35years of age is most likely to feel such a compulsion represents an important saving of both cash and living area.
“We can quitepractically wave bye bye to the completist-music-collector impulse,” Ben Ratliff composes in Every Tune Ever. “It had a limited run in the human brain, probably 1930 to 2010 … It is not just a way of buying, owning and setting up music-related things and experiences in one’s life, but also an unique method of listening.” Ratliff’s interest is in checking out other, more recent ways of listening in the age of Spotify. “Algorithms are listening to us,” he observes. “At the reallyAt the minimum we must try to listen better than we are being paid attention to.”
The primary jazz critic of the New york city Times for the past Twenty Years, Ratliff is similarly comfy with hip-hop, punk, symphonic music and numerous of the idioms collected under the heading of world music. This is the credentials behind Every Tune Ever, whose title describes the modern listener’s access, often at no monetary cost, to practically every note of music ever tape-recorded. The author wants to reveal us how to listen throughout categories by applying different filters: not those of genre however something deeper, a set of qualities such as the one that unifies Bud Powell’s “Salt Peanuts”, Jerry Lee Lewis’s “High School Confidential”, 2 variations of Scarlatti’s Sonata in B minor (by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and Mikhail Pletnev), and OutKast’s “DaArt of Storytellin’ (Part 1)”.
When it comes to those extremely contrasting options, the unifying factor is speed. “Speed has no useful function in music,” Ratliff composes, starting a series of particular riffs. “It doesn’t naturally enhance or reduce the feeling of the notes themselves, or the listener’s physical pleasure. Speed is to be considered separately from music. Speed in music is like a sweatshirt on a dog: primarily for program. It enhances tension, and its death-ride futility can feel appealing. Itrepresents an indirect contract between the gamer and the listener: we remain in this together, and it may pertain to no great.”
Ratliff also writesblogs about listening through volume, virtuosity, stubbornness, repeating, density, improvisation and inconsistency. There’s a particularly fascinating chapter on “audio area”: recorded music as a representation of physical space, and how that has actually changed through the years in the exploitation of innovation, from Janet Cardiff’s installation based on Tallis’s Spem in Alium to Stockhausen’s Gesang der J nglinge. He can hold your attention through a passage about listening through memory or pin you, in a closing chapter on perfect moments, by remembering a show Three Decade ago when Merle Haggard all of a sudden stroked his guitar strings from leading to bottom: “I stopped breathing and felt as if a splinter were being withdrawn from my skin.”
In some cases he appears to want to use the book as a pretext for gathering up every piece of music he has ever enjoyed and finding a theory to make collective sense of everything. Occasionally losing himself in his own reveries, he can lapse into the bafflingly obvious (on the Sufi vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: “His long tones cover the continuous drone note, fuse with it, punch through to your hearing: an act of strong attention, attention materialized through noise”). More frequently, asin hisdescription of Eric Dolphy’s alto saxophone improvisation on Charles Mingus’s variation of “Stormy Weather”, his deep listening can produce passages of level of sensitivity and accuracy.
Appreciation for digital innovation’s pledge of unlimited access can not entirely erase this listener’s loyalty to particular benefits of the physical disc, not least to the details printed on album sleeves and labels, which allowed us, for example, to sign up withenroll the dots of composers, publishers, arrangers and producers in order to establish the human, commercial and geographical origins of a recording at a time when such details was scarce. However it would be unwise to presume a sensible future for such a method. The mission of Every Song Ever is to demonstrate that there will be compensations.
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