Less is more: Wired for sound?
In the digital age remembering how to listen is essential if we’re not to become blase about great music. For Louder Than War densityofsound has a proper listening session.
I’m listening to a mix, which features some funny little burbly glitchy folky tune, a little earworm that grabs my attention then segues into a clouddead track, which is blended almost seamlessly with a beautiful piece of piece of ambient, blissed out noise from Koen Holtkamp, then carries me off into a melancholy moorland panorama courtesy of A Broken Consort.
And I’m struck by a thought. A moment of revelation, a little flash of lightning from on high – this is fucking brilliant. It’s awesome in the true sense of the word, akin to a moment of spiritual revelation, nirvana, ecstasy. Like stopping for a moment and noticing that the sky is an incredible mottled canvas of divine beauty, that birds soar and swoop in mind blowing intricate ways or that the colours of a flower growing in the cracks of that depressing concrete wall are almost luminescent.
At such points, the next thought is, as almost always, why the fuck don’t I notice this beauty everyday? Why don’t I live this kind of transcendent experience all the time? I muse for a while – perhaps I’m just in the mood tonight, maybe there is some kind of hidden code in the particular rhythms of this musical combination – and then it hits me. Simple and clear. I don’t notice these aural wonders, because I’m not listening.
I’m not listening because I’ve become blasé – almost immune to the music. Almost instantly I know why. It’s because I listen to it all the time. Because like Cliff, I’m wired for sound in a way that goes far beyond the dreams of any wierdly haggard looking pubicly asexual jesus loving tennis fan. That the computer currently playing away is like something from a William Gibson novel – a 90’s dream of the near future, a machine that is tuned into my precise tastes, feeding my sonic desires like a personal music chef with 3 michelin stars and 24 hour room service.
I think – just imagine there was only the good old FM radio. What a moment this would be – tuning up and down the wavelengths, past the endless streams of easy listening, through jabbering shallow vacuous phone ins hosted by rent-an-opinion radio voices, over and under classical music so obtuse you need to be taught to understand it, thinking that nothing out there is for me until suddenly hitting this. This mix. This incredible sound. It would hit me like a physical force. I’d stop. All my senses would be engaged. I’d maybe rush for a tape, desperate to preserve this wondrous experience.
So I’m thinking. What have I become? What has the new world made me into? Consuming the clever, the passionate, the downright glorious like it was the everyday, the mundane, the meaningless. I’m like a millionaire picking wallpaper prints from Tate gallery. I need to stop for a moment. Remember. Learn to appreciate. Stop shovelling this stuff down my neck like it’s fast food and taste it again.
But that’s not the point. The point is saturation, the point is a lack of contrast, the point is the way we can wallow in our own pleasures, chase the dragon if you like, to such an extent where you don’t even notice your doing it. Where what you once loved becomes mundane. I don’t want to wax lyrical about the physical thrill of waiting for a new album, the bus ride home reading the artwork, the hiss of the needle on the record and the swell of the first note, the dizzying exotica of worlds that sound would take you to, because that’s been done, is done weekly in broadsheets, was done brilliantly by Bill Drummond in his book ‘The 17’.
So instead, I’ll just sound a note of caution. Don’t forget to listen. Don’t skip what doesn’t immediately grab you, wrestle with what you think you might dislike. Don’t just retreat to a comfortable cocoon of spotify playlists because the vivid colour soon becomes grey and before you know it, your music has become like musak and it deserves so much more.
Onwards into the unknown.
All words by densityofsound.