Most of the events of my life from age 13 onward have been marked by music. I’ve always been able to remember where I was and, usually, what I was doing when I’d hear something I hadn’t heard in a while, and I liked that. In the late 90s, when everything started going digital I thought it was important to try and recreate my extensive library as much as I could with their binary counterparts, thinking I could now rehash the past with just an iPod.
After a while, though, I realized that I was listening to the music of my past more than I had when it was played on the radio. The memories that had once stirred nostalgia had become as stale as the music that inspired them.
Now those same stale songs are all that played on the radio. And it’s just bland.
When I moved to Australia one of the first things I noticed, being an audiophile, was the complete lack of variety on the radio. Granted, NY radio had pretty much become a homogenized factory of repetition trying to address specific markets — a far cry from the radio I had grown up on, where the DJs basically played whatever they wanted (or at least it seemed that way).
But here in Australia the stations played essentially the same music: 80s and early 90s, with a few current pop hits thrown in. There is (to my knowledge) no one station that plays jazz or anything close to chill that I really enjoy; each station is just a clone of another.
In the intervening years between the late 90s and now I’d grown to like more ambient/chill music and even had my own broadcast at one time. My enthusiasm for hosting an audience grew from the near-shutdown of Internet radio by the RIAA who, in their ignorance, thought that Internet broadcasts encouraged piracy instead of seeing it as, essentially, free promotion.
Thankfully, iTunes and online broadcasts fostered the rise in interest in genres and artists not heard on playlists designed to pacify a niche segment through sheer repetition with real goal of securing advertising dollars.
In the process, I grew bored with hearing the same small sampling of music over and over. Repeated listening not only proved that the songs themselves were, for the most part, vapid and forgettable entertainment but that I no longer associated the “good times” with them anymore — the result of sheer repetition.
A long lead-up to the topic tonight: the Brian Eno show at the Sydney Opera House.
I’ve been a fan of Brian Eno for nearly 20 years. His minimalist and asymmetrical musical style is appealing in the sense that it’s more about the experience of the music rather than about a catchy but predictable melody. I mean, look at his website! How much more stripped-down can you get?
Tonite’s show featured old fav Karl Hyde from Underworld and a new fav of mine, The Necks. It was a well-orchestrated improv set of movements that were layered with crescendos, each a spontaneous collaboration of synchronized chaos fused with hypnotic techno beats and visuals. When I closed my eyes I experienced — more than listened to — the sounds; it became less about being an audience member and more about participating in the event. I thought there was great chemistry amongst all the musicians, especially Karl and Brian.
As I gravitate towards this style of music more I find it less necessary — if it ever was — to try and relive a distant past through the rather insipid offerings on commercial radio.
Thank God for Last.fm