The Music and the Album Experience
I have always loved music. From as far back as I can remember I had something in my life that would play music. A portable radio (they called them “transistor” radios for a while), a record player, a boombox, a Walkman, a CD Walkman, an I Pod and a smartphone. I always loved my stereo system ( because at one time they had mono systems I guess). There was always music playing around me. In the background, in the foreground 🙂 in the car, at the beach near our house, at friends houses, parties, late night on the back porch.
There was one thing that really changed how I listened to music and made the difference on what I listen to today. I will show my age by saying this but for a while in time the “record album” was part of a renaissance of modern music that made listening to an artist or group different from before. It wasn’t just about one song (although that may be one of the reasons to listen to the album), it was about the complete experience of understanding the artists and their music and the atmosphere it brought when you would play several songs in a row by the same artists. Sort of why they called it an “LP” – long play record.
Since it was hard to skip through/scan through songs on a record without picking up the needle (amazing a sharp little thing that scraped along a groove in plastic), it was easier just to let the “side” play. One half of the album would play out its 4 or 5 selections and you would listen. And somewhere along that time you would get to know the artist better, and actually appreciate the songs that weren’t likely the hit-single playing on the radio. In some cases they all folded together into something that felt more like a drawing or painting of a mood.
And even now, as I scan through songs on the Internet or program selections or shuffle a playlist I still stop to wonder about those “other” songs. The one or two I missed because they were part of a more complete picture in sound. I could even get nostalgic about how the album cover and art were part of the experience. Don’t get me started about those albums that would include the words to the songs, or “liner” notes from fellow musicians who wanted to speak to the listener about their heroes and peers.
I am too much in a hurry now to sit through a whole album (or at least one side). Sometimes when a song doesn’t grab me in the first 10 seconds I hit the forward button and go on. Letting songs pass by without a passing thought.
Don’t get me wrong. Theres something to be said for technology allowing us to experience new and different artists online, streaming or downloading musicians you may never have heard before – when record companies had to pick and choose for you. But that album from the artist that fought their way to the label had character as a “physical thing” to be collected, and replayed and shared with friends as an experience.