NICK HORNBY, RECORD STORES, and “POP MUSIC”

I visit www.jazz.com. with some regularity, and I’ve even had my own blogposts featured on it.  A good deal of what is posted there is not my thing, but some of the content is fascinating. 

Today I encountered there an article published in the Guardian by the popular British novelist Nick Hornby on the death of record stores.  That isn’t a particularly original observation: everyone who’s bought even one record during the last half-century could write similar articles about the phenomenon. 

Hornby proposes that new pop-music blogs that offer MP3 downloads are the new local record stores, and that the internet has become a global music market.  I can’t say much about the first proposition, because I don’t find twenty-second musical snippets valid enticements to purchase, but the second is surely true.

But this casual pronouncement made me sit up straight:

After my local CD shop closed down, I was getting ready for a musical life that turned in on itself, before dying slowly from malnutrition.  Any piece of music becomes drained of meaning and excitement if you listen too much to it, but a three-minute pop song isn’t going to last you a lifetime.  Popular music needs to keep flowing. If the fresh supplies stop, it’s you that becomes stagnant.

I am enthralled by this terminally short attention span: “Any piece of music becomes drained of meaning and excitement if you listen too much to it.”  This hunger for new sensations clearly isn’t just Hornby’s artistic immaturity; it defines contemporary culture’s glorification of disposable ersatz-Art, novels that exhaust their ingenuity before the reader is well into chapter two; music that bores the listener on the first hearing.  (It all sounds dismayingly like a dystopian restaurant where the food is stale as soon as it leaves the kitchen.)       

I don’t know: I’ve been listening to Lester Young and the 1938 Kansas City Six, to Louis and the Mills Brothers, to Billie Holiday and Count Basie, to the Blue Note Jazzmen . . . for almost forty years now.  And if I were to hear one of their recordings now — even though I could hum along with it, knew the solos and the accents by heart — that music wouldn’t be “drained” for me.  The next time Hornby comes to the US for a book tour, I hope he’ll accept my offer of music that doesn’t grow old.  I’d be glad to share some Teddy Bunn and Bessie Smith records: they should restore him!

The full text of Hornby’s piece can be read at http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/sep/06/nick-hornby-mp3-record-shops

7 responses to “NICK HORNBY, RECORD STORES, and “POP MUSIC”

  1. Pingback: NICK HORNBY, RECORD STORES, and “POP MUSIC”

  2. Hear hear! (pun fully intended)

  3. Pingback: NICK HORNBY, RECORD STORES, and “POP MUSIC” « Jazz Lives | RecordsInn.Com

  4. Whilst I disagree with Hornby’s ““Any piece of music becomes drained of meaning and excitement..” statement, I can understand the “If the fresh supplies stop, it’s you that becomes stagnant”. To me the joy of new discoveries is a exciting part of being a music fan/collector.

    Everything I want to listen to might have already been recorded, but there aren’t enough hours in a lifetime for me to listen to it all, and there’s big excitement just in the discovery and exploration.

    If someone said to me that what i own now is all that I could ever listen to, well, I guess I’d be pretty content with that, but I still enjoy looking for more to feed the addiction.

  5. Sure, when I listen alot, I might get tired of it, but the next time I have a hankerin’ for it, I’m sure glad I’ve got it on my shelf. There always seems to be something new in each track to discover.

  6. Not the simplest argument. In high school, ca 1942-43, a brother saxophonist and I retired frequently to my basement where a good Victrola was, lit only by a photo darkroom red light in order to emulate a phenomenon we’d vaguely heard of – stoned – and put on Duke’s “Chelsea Bridge”. Over and over — all afternoon – in order to hear the for me life-changing Ben Webster solo. And for the last 20 years – since they were made – I live with the Kenny Davern Music Masters CDs – he shows me how clarinet goes really. Over and over…

    And yet – I turned on the radio recently and was hit smack dab in the middle by Eric Dolphy (with Andrew Hill), the one of his generation I missed because he almost never came to New York, was utterly smitten and raced to Amazon to buy the record. Aha – there it is: Amazon ain’t going anywhere soon; several times recently I’ve done this – heard something on KCR or QXR, made a dash for the computer and ordered it. There IS a solution..sam p

  7. A 2015 postscript to my own 2009 prose. Beauty doesn’t grow old. If the listener has become jaded, (s)he should not point an accusing finger at the artwork. Tastes change and people change, but beauty remains. Now I’m off to listen to Louis and Gordon Jenkins, music that makes me weep.

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