Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Someone sent me a message:
"You mentioned being able to sort through music very quickly. Do you just listen to the first few seconds and skip it if you don't like on first listen? I find that method to not really be reliable since I might end up loving something after letting it grow but hate it on first listen."

The stuff I can sift the fastest is dance music. Very few tracks evolve beyond a basic set of sounds and structures. You have a house track. You check the intro, you check the drop, you check the main bassline. This was especially easy back in the days of vinyl, as you saw the difference in groove width and could easily spot a breakdown visually. I would fly through stacks 18 inches high at the record shops.
With most electronic music, and with most music in general, I am looking for something a bit new and exciting, or at least the same old ideas, but so well executed that they are fresh again.
I will immediately skip something if it contains tropes of the genre that truly bug me, and I actively listen for these things. One should be extremely fickle with electronic music for this.

With my mind in that critical framework of "searching for any excuse to stop listening to this and move onward", I have to temper my fear that "wait, this might be something fabulous, if I just let it grow on me." You have to get over this fear if you really want to explore a breadth of music. This is the fear that you may be overlooking something awesome.
The reality is that every day there is a huge amount of new music being recorded. For the sake of example, let's say 100 GB of music comes out each day. (Whatever number we chose, assume it is growing at least at a rate of 1% daily...)
Of that 100 GB, 80 GB is probably of genres you didn't even know existed. Of the remaining 20 GB, 19.5 GB is probably anywhere from crappy, to mediocore, to decent. 400 MB of that is spectacular, and 100 MB of that will be that which stands "the test of time". (note: any amount that "stands the test of time" diminishes as you extend the timeline, with each generational culture viciously editing and codifying the culture before it down to the smallest of representations. QUICK! Name your five favourite songs from the 1940s.)

The numbers are all made up. But there is always more incredible music to listen to. And we really shouldn't worry too much if we didn't give something enough time to grow on us, especially if we are well versed in the genres and tropes that a song employs and exists amongst. (If you new to a genre or artists, best listen to the recommendations and learn and absorb, even if it doesn't do much for you at first.)
Some people get anxious when they are behind on editions of the blog, and promise me they will catch up. I tell them that really, it doesn't matter. Just pick up at the latest and continue because there will always be more.

There are always other people in the hivemind that will eventually point you in the direction of something awesome you perhaps missed 1, 5 or 20 years ago. If it has "stood a test of time", it will still make you happy to discover it then, than if you had discovered it now. I remember back in 1996 when I really wanted to hear every new hiphop album at the store. It was a waste of time.
An example of this for me would be Bill Callahan. I didn't like his 2009 album when I first heard it. But then I saw it on a Best Of 2009 list. And I tried again and didn't like it. Eventually on the 4th time a Best Of 2009 list sent me back to it, it clicked and I "got it". And it's awesome.
Our web 2.0 culture is filled with redundancy, so no worries!

And as all this relates to the MP3 Blog here, this was never intended to be an overview of music. This was always an overview of music as taken through the lens of CPI's tastes. I just listen to far more music than a "typical" music fan, so for many, the overview offered suffices. For many other, this is just one of the many ways to explore music.


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