I've always had this problem with buying bitchy electronics that never work exactly as they are supposed to. Though it's annoying at first, once I've got all the quirks figured out it's kind of cool because my little mass-produced whateverthehell isn't exactly the same as that guy's similar mass-produced whateverthehell.
So I've got this ipod shuffle, which was given to me as a gift by my music writers, and it's one of the best things I've ever gotten. It completely changed the way I listened to music -- and this is not another essay about how ipods are so awesome -- though not, necessarily, in a way I liked. In the past I would get a CD and walk around town with it and learn it in a week, and then I would know the whole thing.
Now I upload like five records to my iTunes at once, grab the single and throw it on the player and never revisit the album.
And if I buy a CD somewhere, I can’t even listen to it until I get to my computer.
I find it harder to get into the artistry of albums, and the artists themselves, with the overall vision and themes and goals of a record. People are constantly asking me, as they do in my line of work, what I'm listening to and I always blank because I'm listening to pieces, not wholes, skipping ahead to the thing I want to hear next before the current thing is even over, because that's the way life is now. Next, next, next.
As of yesterday my shuffle is dead. And no computer will recognize it, so I can't charge it, and I can't get some songs off I'm sick of or put on some new Jenny Lewis tracks I found recently.
I walk alone a lot and I always have music on. I couldn't fathom 30 minutes with my own head, and, like, the world to listen to (plus I have great headphones that double as earmuffs).
Last night my only option was minidisc. Pre-shuffle I had obsessive minidisc periods, after a particularly great recording or if I’d nabbed songs I was in love with that weren’t available on records. But recently I've just been taping stuff and walking away, because editing shows takes twice as long as listening to them, and I can't stand crowd noise or in-between pauses or microphone bumps. So last night I dug it out -- and it felt like a rock in my hand, a silver brick -- to listen to a Brian Borcherdt show at the Attic, from July, and Kathleen Edwards at the Metro Centre in April.
Great artists, both, moderately good recordings on my part. But to not have the option to listen anything but those two artists was oddly restrictive, like a trap. Like a radio station I couldn't change.
I hated feeling like that. And it's not the minidisc's fault, or Brian's or Kathleen's or Halifax's or whatever. It's iPod's and Apple's and the world for being willing to treat music so lightly, like a television series with great writing that gets cancelled after two episodes because no one watched, no one gave it a chance. We live in a world of singles now. And that sucks.
So tomorrow I'm back to the discman -- three times the size of the minidisc! -- which I lent to a locked-out CBC friend in the summer of 2005, the same time I got the shuffle. I'm gonna stick with it for a bit, in the hopes that I will start to re-appreciate the all of the music, rather than just the parts somebody said were cool. I imagine I’ll go back to digital -- I can already feel the extra weight of carting around CDs in my bag on my shoulder -- but for now I hope to discover some artists I can hold onto for life, the whole of them, no matter what the changing tide brings in.