From “INFINITE PLAYLIST,” by Alex Ross

 From The New Yorker, August 10/17. 2009:

For a century or so, the life of a home listener was simple: you had your disks, whether in the form of cylinders, 78s, LPs, or CDs, and, no matter how many of them piled up, there was a clear demarcation between the music that you had and the music that you didn’t.  The Internet has removed that distinction.  Near-infinity awaits on the other side of the magic rectangle.  Video and audio stream in from around the world. . . . but these meandering journeys across the Internet soundscape can be taxing.  The medium too easily generates anxiety in place of fulfillment, an addictive cycle of craving and malaise.  No sooner has one experience begun than the thought of what else is out there intrudes.  Putting on an old-fashioned disk and letting it play to the end restores a measure of sanity.  This may explain why the archaic LP is enjoying an odd surge of popularity among younger listeners: it’s a modest rebellion against the tyranny of instant access.

At times, I enjoy “the tyranny of instant access,” and I think that in some small way my blog-videos have contributed a rivulet to the deluge, but I know well what Ross is writing about.  I propose (in my ancient way) that we take it back even one step deeper into the past, with One-Track Moments: where we play one recording a half-dozen times in a row to hear it deeper and deeper.  This, of course, is a poor substitute for the tactile thrill of placing the stylus once again at the beginning of the track, or (an infinitely more seductive pleasure, now half-denied us) of replaying a particular passage or even a moment — a series of three Jo Jones accents behind Tommy Ladnier, or the different ways Billie Holiday sings “Yesterdays” on her 1939 Commodore record, or the glorious pots-and-pans clatter Dave Tough makes on “Tappin’ the Commodore Till.”  Let us occasionally listen to jazz as they did in 1939, intently, intensely, dipping ourselves neck-deep in its pleasures, rather than moving through twenty-five tracks of a compact disc as if we were someone mowing a meadow, one strip closer to going home.  Try it!  It satisfies . . . .

4 responses to “From “INFINITE PLAYLIST,” by Alex Ross

  1. Pingback: From “INFINITE PLAYLIST,” by Alex Ross

  2. “On the other hand” – there are so many hands here it looks like the Hindu goddess Kali – the one with 7 or 8 arms. One is having found “Zoot’s Theme” on You Tube, I play it over and over to remember how rare swing of this caliber is. So I use it as though it was an old LP – as Jazz Lives describes. And – only last night I trolled You Tube looking for Edmond Hall and stumbled into “New Orleans Jam Session 1958”. Good Night !! – I didn’t know Alphose Picou was even alive then. Jim Robinson, George Lewis, a young Percy Humphrey, and oh my – Paul Barbarin. AND surprise, surprise – Eddie Miller sitting in back, smiling happily, never takes a solo, but the great ensemble player he was.

  3. Some of my best recent listening has come while driving in the car by myself. If I hear a tune I like (and I frequently do) I can play it multiple times in a row (and I frequently do). I’m talking 5 or 1o times in a row. Such pleasure and so relaxing. Your index finger is your stylus and the music becomes your friend again instead of your master.

  4. In praise of You Tube – at an advanced age practising scales and etudes gives me the measles, so I play along with records – and now You Tubes – a lot. The visual side of things is a revelation – to see Kenny Davern’s body language, to see how Paul Babarin swung and swayed at his drum kit – priceless. Note: I’m delighted to have found a string of Condon and Hackett YTs that are a half-tone sharp. WHEE !! – I get to blow standards in 7 flats !!…sp

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