Music Diary 2012 - Day 3
I'm tired and I think I'm coming down with something, so this is an ill-formed rant that many people will probably disagree with, but I'm thinking out loud and not prepared to defend it. So take that as a warning.
I woke up with Throwing Muses stuck in my head this morning, probably because I watched a few YouTubes late last night. (I was trying to trace the origin of the swimming-fish head-dance, which both sisters were guilty of.) Unfortunately, when I got on the bus, I realised that I only had one Muses track on my iPhone, and I was running too late to load it up with more, so instead I listened to the playlist that was from.
It was an odd playlist, which I made for a mixtape that was a Secret Santa gift for the FD at my last job. He was very into music - half of my original job interview was discussing what were the best guitars - but confessed to being totally ignorant of the past 10 years of developments, so I just made a random mixtape of some of my favourite tunes of the 00s and even a few 90s things mixed in. Starting with Aeroplane's remix of Paris (in case I ever forget how amazing that really is, I sometimes think I've killed it through overplaying it, but then I hear it again unexpectedly and it just picks me up and carries me away) and breezing through Electrik Red, The Knife, Lindstrom & Christabelle, all tracks I hadn't heard in a couple of years and had forgotten how amazing they were. Even that Memory Tapes song, Bicycle, one of those astonishing one-hit wonders, where nothing else he ever recorded turned out to be quite as good, but that single moment, it was just perfect. Bat For Lashes, The Asteroid No. 4, what a trip down memory lane.
It's odd, I was reading some Telegraph article that someone retweeted, which was moaning about the ubiquity of The Cloud and the problems of "Everything All The Time" music - I hate those kinds of articles, because usually what it boils down to is "Music just isn't... ~special~ any more" is less about The Cloud and more about "Wah, I'm not 17 any more" and nothing has the same immediacy as when you were an adolescent discovering the power of music for the first time. Because every one of these tracks brings back a time and place for me - Goldfrapp's Strict Machine, which I heard for the first time, sitting in the garden of my old bassist's house in St Alban's, and our diametrically opposed reactions to it made me realise that our band was essentially finished. The Knife track that reminds me of the kitchen of one of Shimura Curves' house on the Holloway Road. Howling Bells' Setting Sun, which reminds me of early Sonic Cathedral nights at The Legion on Old Street. Music can and does get written to a time and place of one's life, if one lets it happen. But it's random, it's a gift. It's not a function of only owning 5 CDs, that's artificial memory creation.
I have no idea if the FD liked anything off this mixtape at all. I suspect not, as he never mentioned it again. I also can't help but wonder if he read too much into it, as I never pay attention to lyrics when I'm making mixtapes, I just go for what atmospheres and moods and tempos lead into one another, songs that I love for a melody or a riff. And then I realised how many love songs and crush songs there are on this comp, and I just winced with embarrassment thinking oh crikey, I hope he didn't think I meant anything by that. I just love the yearning mood of most of them.
I didn't get to listen to anything on the way home from work because, like a nidiot, I left my headphones on my desk. I didn't even get to listen to anything at work, which is why I took them out of my bag in the first place, as I spent half the day on the phone to my boss. But I got home to find a surprise - the Voices from the Lake CD I'd ordered had arrived and was sitting, thankfully dry, in my postbox.
Now here is where I commit blasphemy. I hate CDs. Yes, I own maybe a thousand of them, at a conservative guess. And I still hate them. Maybe because I own a thousand of them, I'm sick of the way they breed, the way they take up so much physical space, the way they colonise every flat surface in my bedroom with their precarious stacks that collapse and scatter bits of shattered jewel case all over my room.
I *like* renting music, because, let's face it, most music is not memorable enough to own. In my reminiscences above, you will note that it is songs that got written to my memory banks, not whole albums. Oh, and don't get me started, musicians moaning about services like Spotify and YouTube. If you want people to buy your music instead of renting it on server space, make something that I want to listen to more than 6 times. And most music, I don't. A couple of plays and I've warn it out, the thrill is gone, and I'm stuck with these wads of un-recycleable plastic cluttering up my life.
And it's odd that I take this viewpoint now, that I finally own mine own flat, and I haven't had to move in nearly 7 years, which is the third longest I have lived *anywhere*. (There are two houses I've spent just on 10 years in.) After a lifetime of carting boxes of vinyl and CDs from house to house, sometimes country to country, I just don't want to do it any more.
I had a long rant in my head about this as I cooked dinner, but of course it meandered off and I've forgotten most of it. Trying to separate my feelings as a listener/music fan from my feelings as a former musician requires a lot of disentanglement. And trying to separate my feelings on whether* or how musicians should get paid from my feelings that most music - especially on CD - has been vastly overpriced for so long that musicians have an over-inflated idea of what music is actually worth - even while being aware that most musicians don't see much of a return from those overpriced pieces of plastic. It's complicated.
*Yes. I said "whether." Because this is the issue with Spotify and YouTube, isn't it? Most musicians, including myself, got used to the idea that they make music for love and often give it away, for love. (If you want to get rich, go into accounting. If you want to be a musician, get used to the idea that it's *not* like waiting tables or making sandwiches or the other things that entitled idiots compare it to when they should be millionaire rock stars, it's something that people do because they *choose* to do it. You do it because it's fun and you love it and you can't live without it. If you're doing it because you want to get rich, don't waste your time, learn programming instead. It's a scam. Yes, this is the bitter ex musician in me talking.) But it's not the idea that stuff is getting given away for free that irks - so much as the idea that *other* people, i.e. advertisers and intermediary companies, are making large amounts of money off giving your music away for free.
Anyway. Thinking about what makes music special, the physical object and the fetishisation, or the strange ability of music to capture and crystalise emotion. And how many of my favourite pieces of music have been so transitory - something that came to me by accident, taped on the back of something to fill up a C90. Maybe I just love MP3s because they have that same transitory and sharing nature that cassette tapes had, and I am not of the CD generation, but the cassette generation. And yes, yes, home taping was killing the music industry just like MP3 are now, but the ease of use, the ability to shuffle and change the order, to create your own mixes and playlists, and then erase and rewind and do it all again. This is how I expect music to behave. I rebel against the unchanging platters of CDs and vinyl and their imposing demands that you sit through the whole thing, even if you only like a couple of tracks. And the faff of changing the damn things. (In the past, I have certainly ended up listening to the same album over and over again, not because I didn't have that many CDs, but because I couldn't be bothered to dig out the physical media of something different.)
Anyway, Voices from the Lake. Lex was raving about this on twitter, in a way that made me think I'd like it. There was a snippet on Soundcloud (I'm of two minds about Soundcloud. I certainly love that it enables musicians to share in a way that suits them, but again, it forces you to listen to songs in pre-decided order) which reminded me of Global Communication and all that early 90s ambient techno that I loved to death. So I ordered it on Bandcamp, thinking I'd be able to pay my money and download the MP3s.
No. For fucks sake. The download was the same 20 minute snippet that was on Soundcloud, and I had to order a very expensive (it came to nearly 20 Euros including shipping) CD I neither wanted nor needed. I had to rip it to MP3 as soon as I got it - which is an unnecessarily complicated process due to the fact that my laptop no longer plays audio CDs on its optical drive (though DVDs play just fine) and I had to locate and boot up a very old and cranky computer to rip the MP3s and then port them across on a data stick. There are very few artists I'm willing to go through this kind of rigamarole for any more.
Anyway. Voices from the Lake. I get so cranky thinking about all this stuff I have forgotten to even talk about them. It is very lovely, actually. But I'm really not sure this experience was worth 20 euros. Give me a shout if you want the CD, I'm done with it now.