How I listen to music

Thursday 22nd March 2012

OTIS Redding and Aretha Franklin were both on the first record I bought: This is Soul, an Atlantic label compilation album. Even the very best music fades, eventually, into life’s background. As with any indulgence of the senses, you can have too much of a good thing.

Over the years – like most of my contemporaries – I have adapted to change: from gramophones with needles to instant downloads, from 33rpm to mp3, from pressing the ear to the loudspeaker to wearing Wharfedale Pro-41 hi-fi cans.

If music be the food of love, play on… by all means. But let me often wallow also in the soothing sound of silence.

One hundred and thirty hours, the media player tells me: fewer than 2,500 tracks; more car boot remainders than any serious collector’s collection; too many golden oldies and not enough obscure northern bands who split up after fights broke out on stage when the bass player admitted to having slept with the vocalist’s girlfriend when the latter was stoned.

The classical music of Radio 3 is my morning alarm clock. I can’t tell Schubert from Shostakovich, but it’s a lovely, calm way to wake up.

I don’t use the shuffle thing, but begin with unfamiliar newcomers – Adele cannot yet compete with the film scores of Hans Zimmer – and progress, over several weeks, through the musicals, rock, folk and funk stuff, until sensing something of a crescendo building, as the all-time favourites start demanding louder volumes.

Mundane matters (emails, accounts etc) I can do to 60s singles and Van Morrison melodies; but not writing, which I’ve finally learned needs a respectful concentration.

And when the heat really comes on – the best Counting Crows, a couple of Patti Scialfa tracks, and the recent Dick Gaughan acquisitions – everything else has to stop.

You can never quite attain total bliss, even when it’s way past midnight and the headphones are squeezing the essence of every sung or struck note deep into the echo chambers of the inner skull.

Not quite… but it’s not far off.






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