music and me

November 10, 2006
I've been thinking about my relationship to music.

I've taken pride in my music collection, (ironically, both for its selectiveness , and for its bulk) many many CDs currently residing in 4 massive black binders, even though it didn't really get started until college. I made some great mixtapes back in the day, if I do say so myself. And it all seemed to jive well with my band involvement, and singing a cappella w/ sQ, the whole idea of me being a "music person".

The first step was admitting to myself that I really don't like jazz and classical that much, even though I had been trying to force it since fifth grade or so. Like it says on my bio page, I've managed to distill my appreciation of music into 3 broad ideas: lyrics, rhythm, and clever hooks. Since jazz and classical generally miss out on the first of those, a work in either genre has to rely on 2 and 3 if it's going to capture my interest. I have little patience for slow classical or noodling jazz.

But then over the last decade, I really cut back on how much I listen to music. Judging by the increasing density of my CD binders I'm still purchasing CDs, but I' not going back to old CDs all that much. These days I largely treat music as background. Most of the music I listen to is the high energy, non-distracting "party mix" stuff I find immensely useful in aiding in focus as I work. (Recently I bumped up from a 1.5 hour party mix to a much longer 8.2 hour mix.)

Theoretically I'm open to a wider variety of music as I drive, but that's stunted by my forgetting to refresh the pile of CDs I have in the car, and then often preferring some variety of news, sports, or talk radio when I'm driving on my own. (I had an iPod for a short while, but I've come to the conclusion that it'd only be useful for me on a public transportation commute, and even then I'd rather have a good book.)

Another admission, and judging by the success of iTunes, I'm not alone in this, is that I usually only like a few songs per CD. Most of the rest feels like filler, though one man's filler is another's best song ever. Sometimes friends offer to share their entire MP3 collection with me, It's almost tough to admit but I have so little urge to bring new music into my life in a wholesale kind of way. In general, I'll randomly hear a song (or see a movie with a good soundtrack), buy the CD, listen to it, and find maybe one or two other songs I like besides what I bought it for. So being shoved into a realm of thousands of new tunes just seems... overwhelming. A vast amount of someone else's coal to find a few potential diamonds.

I'm feeling the urge to try to make the canoncial distillation of my CD collection, MP3s of just the stuff I like (and wouldn't skip if it came up in a random selection) and skipping the filler. On the one hand, if I was succesful with a project like that, I'd be worried because the songs that didn't make the cut that day would be almost totally ignored. On the other hand, it's worlds better than the status quo, where only the songs that had made it onto my "party mixes" or into the smaller CD wallet for my car get regular attention.

Once I had that "best of" collection, I'd further need to winnow it down to "party/work", "potentially sensual", and "other". And that would be it. I worry about the amount of effort it would take though... I'd have to trust in my ability to quickly judge a song by just hearing the begining and maybe a chunk in the middle. Which is actually pretty reliable, though I'm sure a few good songs would slip through the cracks. The BIG problem comes from the songs that are luke-warm, neither hot nor cold...

Toy of the Moment
Speaking of all things musical, or at least audio, the Whitney Music Box is a cool (if somewhat repetitive) series of toys exploring the relationship between sound and spiral space. Very Space Age!

Video of the Moment
OK, this is a video of someone doing very well at the "Home Run Contest" in Super Smash Brothers Melee, where a character has to beat up a "heavy bag" and then use a power move to send it flying for distance:

But it's probably the most concise video showing for showing something that drives me NUTS about the game... in the final "5, 4, 3, 2, 1" countdown, I swear that the announcer's pronunciation of "five" sounds more like "three" than it does "five". Can people weigh in? Is it just an aural quirk of mine, or is it spoken kind of oddly? (Another odd thing is I don't remember noticing it for the first few years I owned the game, but now it grabs my attention every time.)