listening to music in the post-college radio world
it's been almost 2 months since I bid farewell to college radio. in real terms, two months really isn't that much time. sure, it's 1/6th of a year, but let's be honest, I've been through a lot of sixths of a year in my life. in those two months, I've noticed a subtle yet profound change in the way that I listen to music or at least approach listening to music. I'm not sure if it's necessarily better or worse, but it is different, and I kinda like it.
in my four years of involvement with wprb, I pretty much transformed from a typical high school classic rocker to a somewhat mainline indie rocker (including a really embarassing article about that transformation in the 2002 wprb program guide that I'm sure you can find somewhere on wprb's website
) to a fairly skeptical indie rocker to whatever strange catagory my tastes fall into now (eccentric? music snob? indier-than-thou? snark? "a bit stranger"? who knows). it's a long way to travel in four years; lots of music has gone through my ears, some has stuck, a lot of it hasn't. and therein lies the problem with the way that college radio made me listen to music. in the constant quest to find something different, there's no time to actually sit back and reflect on what you've found. I look back at old playlists and see bands that I don't even remember playing, much less hearing. I don't regret any of it, and wouldn't change a thing about the way I conducted myself as a disc jockey, but I can't help but feel like I stopped actually listening to a lot of things.
the other day I was in a coffee shop reading, and in the background came built to spill's album keep it like a secret
. it was one of the first "indie" records I ever listened to in the summer before I my freshman year of college. it lived in my cd player almost non-stop for a good few months and I probably knew it inside and out. I haven't listened to it since probably spring 2002, but there it was. and I knew every nook and cranny of the songs, even though I hadn't devoted any mental energy to that record in 3 and a half years. when I look back over college, there are very few records that have come into my possession between 2002 and 2005 that I can safely say the same thing for. yeah, I'll recognize a cd as being by so and so and have a general idea of its contour, but I won't necessarily be able to know just what's coming next. and while this may be more a testament to the nature of built to spill's songs than anything, the fact remains that as a dj and music director of an edgy college radio station, I forgot just as must music as I discovered, reviewed records I couldn’t identify if you played them for me now, downloaded more mp3s by obscure folks than I'll probably ever have time to listen to, and bought records that I still to this day haven't put in my cd player or on my turntable. let’s face it, once I got deeper into the recesses of college radio, I stopped really listening to records.
and that has been the biggest revelation for me in these past two months - that I can actually absorb a record, that some (but by no means all) of the things I wrote off before actually have some merit, that the quest for the ultimate obscure, while a fulfilling end, isn’t all there is to music. that said, I still have really weird tastes in music, and that’s not going to change. I’m not about to jump on the pitchfork hypewagon, nor am I going to abandon john cage, the revolutionary ensemble, racebannon, gang gang dance, dalek, the bunny brains, late coltrane, or any of the other insanity that I enjoy, but being able to view records as records and not as pieces of an intricately constructed radio show has made my ears happier than they’ve been in a while. listening to music should never be constricted to just a handful of songs or albums, but it should also never go by so fast that there’s no time for contemplation.