novel vs familiar listening modes
It has become apparent to me that music-listening preference at any time can be projected as a balance of novel vs familiar music. I think this is true for most people in that we frame ones listening habits as x% new music and 100-x% music that we already know.
I’ve found that the extreme examples of each side are either engaging in as-it-happens Internet music news vs listening to terrestrial radio.
Generally when you listen to corporate FM radio, the same songs are repeated for weeks on end. I went through a bit of a phase earlier this summer/spring listening to the 2 pop stations in the area. I got to hear my Katy Perry tracks twice in one commute home - for like 6 weeks on end. This scratched some pop cultural itch that I hadn’t gotten near in years.
On the other side of my behavior can be demonstrated by 75 or so various subscriptions I have with music -blogs, -labels, -artists, -twitterfeeds. The revelation of which is that I have such a huge amount of new music presented to me, that there is not enough time to fairly listen to everything new.
This is problematic: Those who grew up when I did (and before), when scarcity was a real issue (because of access or funds), and those of my bent, with an instinct to want to know all good music, with the goal of never missing anything GREAT, are tormented in today’s climate because scarcity is gone and supply has skyrocketed. The drive and effort toward keeping up with the new is very strong in reaction to the environment in which I cultivated my early musical basis.
So I believe that understanding this novel vs familiar drive is a good step in dealing with the current musical landscape as a listener.
First, I have to embrace that I will truly never hear all the great songs.
Next, in the pursuit of finding & auditioning music, in search of the illustrious great tracks, listening to and enjoying familiar music is crowded out. Backward case in point - I’ve been listening to the new album Glass Swords by Rustie on warp. It’s amazing - so I’ve listened to it maybe 5-8 times during a week’s commute. That’s at least half of my weekly commute time. The problem is that it infringes on my novel-music time.
I need to be careful to accept I did the right thing by over-indulging in one album; this was the right thing to do because I’ve happily created a strong bond between me and the music.
It is easy to listen to novel music, and the possible payoff could be huge. In this environment, it is hard to focus your attention and energy on familiar music.
The old conservative man in me thinks that while it’s impressive that kids today have huge breadth of music knowledge, it is fundamental to have deep relationship with individual songs and albums, because that relationship is rare and fulfilling. Yet it doesn’t sound as impressive to say I’ve listened to Strangeways Here We Come 150 times this year as it does to say I’ve listened to and can name every Rough Trade 7” released between 1982 and 1989.
So to dedicated music listeners my old man advice is to step back, focus, and build on the familiar.