What sort of relationship do you have with music listening?
Before I continue, why did I suddenly decide to cover this rather saturated topic? For the same reason I have a tendency to tread on minimalism and simplification of surrounding components and resources. It causes me to maintain a level of sanity and grounding with respect to certain traditions and nostalgia that, if eliminated, enables the influence of continuously increasing sources of distraction and informational chaos. Additionally, writing provides a concrete form to these emotions and attaches a sense of responsibility to my words.
Let’s continue. I tend to listen to music on my computer via Spotify or MP3s, occasionally on my portable player when mobile or exercising, and also at cafes or other social spaces. Do I particularly value the musical experience? Yes. Do I always respect these values? Hardly.
The multitasking approach to music listening feeds the tendency to lose focus and patience with not only the music but other activities. It also diminishes the capacity to really appreciate the depth of the musical composition as traditionally practiced before widespread digitalization. Maybe my readers would disagree, but I still consider music a powerful and independent art form, deserving our undivided attention as any other.
Listening on my player, Spotify, or YouTube, beyond the degraded experience, I also become more prone to skip or mix album tracks, diminishing the pleasure of appreciating the album as a whole. However, I still prefer to listen to entire albums rather custom mixes. This might remain the unique element respecting the traditional listening practices common of the LPs, cassette, or compact disk eras.
What sort of listening experience would I prefer in an ideal scenario? Let me attempt to describe such a setting.
The establishment should comprise a small cafe with simple furniture and a handful, not an overwhelming amount of decorations, sufficient to sustain a sense of aesthetics and warmth in the surroundings. The goal is to maintain attention on the music and not become unreasonably distracted.
There need not be anything special about such a place. Simplicity and sense of character are the essential elements. Quiet a contrast to that would be the Ramones cafe in Berlin, saturated with decorations and memorabilia, and capable of provoking an anxiety attack in anyone respectively inclined.
Beyond the standard kit of hot beverages and aliments, I consider a record player the ideal ingredient. The power of listening to records I still find incomparable to the computer. Clearly I don’t own a record player since I don’t have a permanent residence in a strict sense, and don’t wish to cultivate a hobby in record collection. All the same, I appreciate an opportunity to inhabit a record-player setting.
A CD playing device or a tape player also evoke a sense of music nostalgia to a moderate extent, since I spent my entire adolescence listening to music on these devices. Whatever the choice, I require certain solidity to the medium, external to the computer.
With the main ingredients settled and distractions eliminated, I direct my undivided attention to the music, listening to the entire album, track by track, measure by measure, complimented by a coffee or wine.
A bonus element to the overall experience is a musically educated owner/employee/operator in the cafe to exchange comments and share the appreciation. This relates to taking pleasure in your craft.
Take a look at the Vinyl Cafe in Wrocław, Poland:
The setting features a record player, an arsenal of standard cafe features, but a little too intense of an atmosphere, slightly distracting to the music listening. However, no atmosphere attains perfection, and this place I found one of the more pleasant.