Listen to the music!

3 Feb

Last Saturday evening, after dinner, we went to our friends Jason and Andrea’s house for drinks to celebrate Andrea’s birthday.  It was one of our “just gather” things we do with our friends- not a party.  No invitations, etc.  There were husbands and wives missing for various reasons – chasing kids, business travel, etc. Impromptu.  After the requisite cake and toasting, one couple went home for kid bedtimes (they being the only couple in this group with younger kids), another guy went off to pick up a daughter, and my wife and the remaining three women announced they were going to another’s house to watch chick flicks.

That left just Jason and me hanging out having a drink – and we were left with a binary choice – either put on some sort of man-flick like Pulp Fiction or whatnot, or, better yet, crank the tunes and listen to the music.  We went for the latter.

A back story – a few months ago, I posted about “Listening to Albums”  having been to a concert where Frampton played Frampton Comes Alive.  And how the concept of listening to an album has all but gone away.  Jason and I (and his wife Andrea, and my wife Robin) love to hang and just listen to music, and especially to albums.  Jason, like me, is a big music fan, and he’s an audiophile – meaning he has some serious stereo gear.  While my gear is old, it was very serious in its day, and still sounds great – hence we get into listening to the tunes.  We just hang out, grab drinks, put on a track or an album, listen to it, talk about it, lather, rinse, repeat.

We were marveling over what a treat it is to do this – and how for the most part, this isn’t something people do anymore.  We did it all the time as kids – you’d buy a new album and invite your friends over to listen to it.  You’d have a bit of a party and a major portion of that was “cranking the tunes” and listening to the music and being really into it.   We both came to the conclusion (between savoring the lead guitar parts in the acoustic version of Hotel California, where Joe Walsh squares up with Glenn Frye and they scorch out that harmonizing solo, and Boston’s Hitch a Ride, where Tom Scholz and Barry Gordreau do pretty much the same thing), that technology has changed the way people enjoy and consume music.

Back in the day (a phrase I hate, by the way, especially when some 22 year old says it – “really?  Back in the day?  Like what, 2 years ago?) – when we were in high school and college – you listened to tunes primarily at home.  Then in the late 70s and early 80s, car stereos became serious audio, and so, you added your car to that – but you still listened at home.  Then we added walkmans and other portable devices – now you could listen at home, in the car, walking around.  Layer into that streaming internet music (Spotify, Pandora, etc.), iTunes, MusicMatch on cable, Napster, iPods, Zunes, smartphones, etc. and suddenly our music is with us everywhere we go.

And the net result?  Music is not listened to anymore – it’s just a sound track for whatever else we’re doing.  Working? It’s on.  Driving – it’s on. Running or working out?  On. etc.etc.  This massive availability of music, however I think has killed off the activity of actually LISTENING to the music.  NOT multi-tasking.  Not watching video with it.  Turning down the volume of the input on the other senses, and turning up the volume on the music results in you really focusing on it.  You can hear how Joe Walsh, because he plays slide guitar so much is a bit lazy in his fingering runs and drags his fingers on the strings.  You can hear how Alex Lifeson of Rush plays with almost military like precision with his pick.  You can hear how Eddie Van Halen combines tapping, picking and other crazy techniques so that it comes out of his amp like a flood.  You can hear Geddy Lee’s right hand hitting the body of his bass on his solo in Red Barchetta.  And you can hear an acapella soloist in a song (one is not coming to mind) take breaths.

Like everything else, things are best when savored.  Your mama always told you – “don’t gulp your food!”  My grandmother had a plaque on her wall that said “Don’t hurry, don’t worry, and don’t forget to smell the flowers.”  Enjoying a fine meal means shutting off the other inputs and thinkiing about what you’re smelling and what you’re tasting.  Enjoying a fine painting in a museum, there’s no music.  There’s just good lighting and silence.  A place to sit and stare for a moment – walk up to it, walk back from it – look at it from differing angles.

And the same thing with music.  If you seriously fancy yourself as a music lover, then think about it.  When was the last time you actually sat and listened to music?  No TV, no laptop/iPad/iPhone/Droid, or even for that matter, conversation.  Think about what you’re hearing.  concentrate on hearing the parts – repeat the song and try to listen exclusively to one person or another, one instrument, etc. Savor it like a fine steak.  And be amazed.  Listen up.  Like we used to.

As you were,

Stew

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4 Responses to “Listen to the music!”

  1. Brent February 3, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    Good post Stew. As usual. I think you meant Alex Lifeson of Rush – military precision with a pick. Unless Neal Peart uses a pick somehow while drumming (which he may well do – the guy is essentially the king of drummers)

  2. Jason February 3, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    Totally agree with Stew…a favorite thing to do and you it can only be achieved with some people that can “get into the moment and turn off the world.’ It takes a strong friendship to be able to sit with someone for 45 minutes and not feel the need to converse. Thanks for the opportunity to sit and chill and “crank some tunes.”

  3. Stew's Brew February 3, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    Doh! As was on the train and writing this, I paused and went “Neal Peart? Yeahhh, that’s gotta be right.” Good catch on the detail, Brent!

  4. carpetbagger February 3, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    I own more music than I ever have in my life. But I love so little of it.

    I miss looking at the album art and reading the notes while listening to it. I remember doing that for Fleetwood Mac “Rumors”, REO “You Can Tune a Piano but You Can’t Tune a Fish”, Elton John’s “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road”, plus albums by Boston, Chicago, Aerosmith, Doobie Brothers, Journey, and Cheap Trick. And, yes, Frampton.

    I predict the return of turn tables, soon. Not as retro, but new. Vinyl will return.

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