In our technological society we have lost a lot. Social interactions have changed, consisting of text messages rather than face-to-face contact or hand written letters. The written word is read on screens rather than tangible, beautiful, old-smelling books, newspapers, or magazines. And no one can read a map anymore because Siri will guide us. One of the most tragic losses, in my humble opinion, is the loss of the record. ITunes has revolutionized the means in which we enjoy music in ways that diminish our listening experience to mere background noise or the top forty on repeat until it the songs begin to sound warped.
Records in themselves are beautiful objects. They come in beautiful sleeves with artwork that is just not the same in my tiny ITunes window. When you buy a record, you’ve agreed to listen to the album in its entirety, not simply listen to the top hits and skip all the others that don’t give you instantaneous listening pleasure. Some of those consistently skipped songs are some of the most musically brilliant, despite their lack of a “cool beat” or “catchy tune”. Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland” is, in my opinion, the most musically complex and brilliant song he has ever created. Does it have the same instantaneous appeal as “Glory Days” or his more current “We Take Care of Our Own”? No. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t give the listener a more fulfilling musical experience. He starts his opus with slow, deliberate violin and piano that fade into a simple piano solo accompanied by Bruce’s raspy voice. Most of our generation skipped the song before the vocals even started. About 2 minutes in the guitar comes in with drums and the song comes into its epic, heart-filling stride. Then, of course, there is one of Bruce’s best guitar solos ever, and Clarence Clemons’ unrivaled saxophone solos (R.I.P). 6 minutes thirty seconds in, you think the song is coming to a gradual close, but you’re wrong. He then finishes the song with an epic climax that only Bruce Springsteen is capable of creating. Yeah, the song took ten minutes of you day, but your body feels shaken, your heart broken and pieced back together, and your soul undoubtedly benefitted.
The music ADD culture robs us of these experiences. Am I guilty of this phenomenon? Absolutely, but I recently started my record collection and feel significantly more appreciative of the music I love. Listening to one song on an album is to read a chapter in the middle of a book. It’s out of context and losing meaning as a consequence. I’m not telling you to dump your ITunes library and stop singing, “I Love it” in your car, on repeat. But for those artists you consider to be artistically brilliant, pay them the respect of buying one of their records and simply listening.