February 27, 2019

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Musical Evolution

March 15, 2018

I’m a believer in evolution. Specifically, my personal evolution in how I relate to music. Growing up in the ‘70’s it started with records, which were great when you were at home. Then came the 8 track, which was portable and we could listen to them in our car. They sounded good, although you sometimes got 8 tracks with different track listings from the LP to make the songs fit the tracks (if you’re lucky), or else, sometimes in the middle of a song it would end abruptly as it switched tracks only to then resume mid track. Ok... that was a major flaw, no arguing about it.

 

I loved cassettes. I used cassettes up until probably 2010 or so. I still have a few random cassettes I refuse to part with, even though I have no way of playing them. Most of them are from local Seattle bands and are irreplaceable now.

 

As much as I loved vinyl growing up it was not easy to care for in my household. So records quickly became warped or scratched. That’s what happens when you have a brother who has no regard for personal property and doesn’t understand the value of things. A brother who doesn’t see the issue in reading someone else’s $8 comic book in a steaming hot bath tub. Anybody know someone like that?

But I digress. The point is, this primed me for CD’s. I was the target market. No more scratches and they’d last forever (if properly cared for). I can do that! CD’s only got better when it became affordable to buy blank CD’s and you could make your own compilations of music. This was a game changer in ways I wasn’t even aware.

 

The byproduct of being able to make my own CD’s is that I stopped listening to the radio. I didn’t – and still don’t – see the point. This is when I adopted my new life motto: “Life is too short to listen to bad music”.

 

Making a mix CD or even a mixtape had given me control over the music I listened to in any given situation. I no longer had to constantly switch channels when a song came on I didn’t want to hear. I was now able to maximize my listening time, and only hear the music I was in the mood to hear. This is also why I love my TiVo.

 

I embraced the iPod. Literally. Taking it on runs, to the gym, to work and anywhere else I went. I filled it with different playlists for when I wanted to run a short distance quickly or a long distance slowly. And I tweaked and perfected the flow of the playlist, ad nauseum, until it was perfect.

 

Initially I loved the shuffle. There were so many songs I’d never expected would work together, but somehow did! Who knew that you could go from “Walk On By” by Isaac Hayes to “Fade to Black” by Metallica to “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys. It was another game changer. At least for a while.

Even though I had put all the music on the iPod, sometimes a song would shuffle by that didn’t work, or just wasn’t what I wanted to hear, despite how much I liked the song. Shuffles can be great, but they can be unreliable.

 

These days, the main place I listen to music is in my car. Until recently that was on CD, and I traveled with over 100 CD’s, primarily of my own creation. When I got a new car, however, it didn’t come with a CD player and my entire world changed. It was time to adapt. Time to evolve.

 

The car came with a one-year free trial to Sirius XM. It was fun to explore and discover new channels. And while I was listening to a lot of First Wave for a while I ended up listening to more Howard Stern than anything and even that didn’t hold my attention that long. Satellite radio is still radio and I’m back switching channels and hearing songs I couldn’t care less about.

 

So, I bought a 64Gb Micro SD card and loaded it up with as much music and as many playlists as it’d take and stuck it in my phone. I’ve used Microsoft Groove and Google Play. I don’t care so long as I can import my old iTunes playlists into it. Now I have my music with me wherever I go.

 

I often consider streaming music. I do. And I suppose I technically do, as I play my playlist from my phone via Bluetooth to the car. But I’m not into any of the streaming services. I tried Pandora years ago, listening to an 80’s station in hopes of hearing a long-lost song that I didn’t know the name of, any of the actual lyrics, or even the band, just the sound. But even that felt like work. Sure, there were some songs I’d forgotten about and was happy to rediscover, but then there were songs which I still didn’t like 20 plus years later. It was a case of diminishing returns. And I still haven’t figured out that damn song!

I’m sure I could discover something new I’d like on Apple Music or Spotify, or Sirius XM, but finding new music has never been that great of an issue for me. I’m constantly hearing about new things from my friends. Sometimes it’s something they think I would really like, other times it’s just something they really like. I also discover a lot of music without even actively looking for it: on television, in films, at a restaurant or grocery store. Hell, I’ve discovered new music just walking down the street. I sometimes even discover music at work.

 

I discover so much music inactively that I don’t need to do it actively. And to me, that’s the main point behind streaming. You choose an artist you want to hear, and you get a bunch of artists some computer algorithm has decided are similar and that you may or may not know.

 

But I don’t need a service for that. Nor do I need to listen to music I’m not interested in. Like I said, life’s too short to listen to bad music.

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