33⅓ revolutions per minute

5392740733_c467266882_zSomething you may have missed over the Christmas break, a very interesting article in the Guardian regarding the rise of vinyl sales, slow culture and the various different studies on the way the internet is affecting our brain:

“We await conclusive British figures for 2012, but last year there was a quantum leap in sales of new vinyl albums, which were 44% up on the figures for 2010. Anecdotal evidence suggests the consumers responsible are not just hard-bitten types – men, usually – of a certain age, but much younger people. And the phenomenon extends across the industrialised world: the same pattern is evident in the UK, the US, Australia, Germany – and even cash-strapped Spain.

This piece was written at a desk around 2ft away from a turntable I now use every day. When the grimmer aspects of daily life – deadlines, flooding, Danny Alexander – start to get a bit much, I reach for a record, and take 40 minutes or so to give it my undivided attention. So as to be kept in its original condition, it must be carefully played as its creators intended, and also divided by the lovely pause for reflection in between sides one and two. The sound quality is way better than anything digital; there is an obvious Proustian thrill to the deep click from the stylus that begins the listening experience.

Now, compare all this to the easy delights of music either streamed or downloaded. No one was ever going to miss the charmless compact disc, and when the iPod era ended with the arrival of the streaming service Spotify, the infinite jukebox of millions of dreams was made real

Here, though, is the problem: as I distractedly jump from song to song, am I actually listening, or merely hearing? And if most of us now listen to music in a state of twitchy impatience, what happens when that feeds back into the art itself? We already know the answer: modern pop has little time for delayed gratification, so intros must be quickened, choruses brought forward, and the most banal buttons pushed.

All this stokes a quiet anti-digital rebellion, and reflects an impulse that is growing, not just in the culture, but in everyday life”

Sound familiar? Read the full article here.

The Future Of Listening


The Future of Listening is an event taking place in London next week by Protein, it’s a look into our listening habits in the digital age:

“As a generation, we are engaging with music in a notably different way than our predecessors. With the rise of digital downloading almost two-thirds of our Protein audience believe that music has become more disposable. The majority prefer to download and stream tracks rather than own anything physically, and some argue that music is listened to more as background noise than through active appreciation.
Recently our Protein Feed has been catching several creative projects that persuade listeners to re-engage with music. From the ‘Listen Carefully‘ headphones which only play music if the listener sits completely still, to the rise of unique physical or analogue releases (see Nicolas Jarr and Kid Koala), and the berth of interactive apps that add additional layers of musical engagement (see Bobby Womack and Brian Eno). Across the board, it seems that labels, musicians and innovators are all evolving the listening experience.
So join us on Tuesday 11th December as we explore these and other projects, and delve into just what this means for the future of music – both creatively and for the industry itself.”
I’ll be amongst the speakers talking about this project, come along if you can.

How Music Works

David Byrne’s new book ‘How Music Works’ is a fine read for anyone remotely interested in music; there are some nice passages that resonated with me and this project.

On the subject of those beastly things, MP3s:

MP3s? They may be the most convenient medium so far, but I can’t help thinking that the psychoacoustic trickery used to develop them the ability to cause the mind to think and feel that all the musical information is there when in reality a huge percentage has been removed is a continuation of this trend in which we are seduced by convenience. It’s music in pill form, it delivers vitamins, it does the job, but something is missing. We are often offered and gladly accept, convenient mediums that are “good enough”, rather that the ones that are actually better”
Grab the book here.

Does anybody really listen to music anymore?

Interesting article from Steve Guttenburg (not that one) on our 21st century listening habits:

Think about it: the people who made the music sweated the details, agonized over the sound, the mix, and the performance for weeks or months. The composer tweaked the work to the nth degree, and still, very, very few “listeners” ever give music their undivided attention. They only hear the surface, the most obvious elements of the music. Multitask all you want, but can you just focus on the music? Let it really get to you”
Read the full article here.

Time To Listen?

                                                                                         I was alerted to this blog post by the good folks over at Linn products. Composer David Smooke wrote an excellent article detailing a personal listening project. Here’s a small extract:

In order to stop this gradual erosion of my knowledge of the contemporary repertoire, I’ve embarked on a new listening project. Each week, I try to carve out blocks within my schedule during which I concentrate on experiencing a piece that is either new to me or that I’ve only heard in less than ideal circumstances. I’m trying to force myself to move beyond the paralysis that can set in as I face the infinite variety of sounds available to me at all times in order to choose one or two works on which I will focus during each session. I’m hoping that this venture might work over time to stem the deterioration of my listening skills, and that it will allow me to remain more current in my awareness of the wealth of music available to listeners today”

You can read the full article here.

Last Shop Standing

There’s an excellent new documentary out called ‘Last Shop Standing‘, (inspired by the book of the same name). It’s an in-depth look at the fall and rise of independent record shops. There’s a nice clip with Johnny Marr that has parallels with this project, about the way our music consumption has changed in the digital era. Look out for screenings of the doc all over the country.