The radio and listening moderation

2023-01-14 @Lifestyle

The old radio receiver emits the melancholic space Jazz tunes of a long-appreciated college radio station. The warm monophonic sound, the smoothly adjusted frequency, tone and volume dials, the retractable and as gracefully contractable metallic antenna: an object of beauty, however humble the range of possibilities and despite the Sony logo a mere nod to the fruitful Japanese assembly days.

I could opt to reproduce the station digitally, online, on the computer, on the tablet, on some smart kitchen blending fork or whatnot by myriads of methods. Or leverage a built-in radio unit on the mobile phone or the portable music player with a plugged in earphone for an antenna.

But none of it compares to the analogue, all-autonomous radio unit on the windowsill, of seamless one-hand operation and the simpleton monophonic sound, albeit the flimsier Malaysian plastic casing next to the Japanese design. The user experience recognizes no serious contender.

Lets also consider the scarcity effect I’ve occasionally explored (see references): the unpredictable radio station transmission catering to an avant-garde philosophy and the Jazz, Classical, Rock listening-block confines, whatever strikes the DJ fancy whenever I flip the power switch.

That is, hearing Miles Davis' Spanish Key, Ornette Coleman’s Midnight Sunrise or Archie Shepp’s The Magic of Ju-Ju: hearing any of the rebellious Jazz extempores on the said radio unit lends to a vastly superior experience over the premeditated album or playlist.

Superior and detoxifying: detoxifying in view of the abused music exploration cycles spent on the computer. And the strict offline MP3 listening I adhere to doesn’t much console. One can YouTube download and MP3 convert just about anything these days. I’d long configured a single express command-line alias for the precise purpose. And if not YouTube, then the Internet Archives.

So I’ve abused the scarcity as well as the grounded music paradigms (see references) repeatedly enforced upon myself and repeatedly violated, exploring new Jazz avant-garde horizons: downloading, listening, reading the production background material, synthesizing with own listening logs, archives and self reviews. Revelational. Enlightening. But as the radio sessions starkly convey, bound for saturation.

To play three-four back-to-back Sun Ra or Coltrane albums, however groundbreaking to the development of Free Jazz vocabulary, leads to extravagance next to the CD/vinyl tradition (the radio stochasticity goes without saying): turning a pleasureful activity practiced in moderation into a kind of decadent academic binge.

There’s a pitiable side to this charade. I’m doing it at the very moment: John Coltrane’s Live in Japan sessions, spanning some four hours of thrashing, sparkling, concentrated Free Jazz over-dosage, my attention supply (to further aggravate) sadly divided with the composition of this diatribe.

It begs the question, am I at a place to genuinely consider the nature of this excess and assume redress protocol? Am I consistent enough with anything for musical narco-abuse to be of any real consequence? To warrant the hunt for every identifiable source of distraction? Let’s leave that for the muses.

In the grand scheme, however, moderation is something to constantly keep in view. Bless the charming radio units on windowsills.


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