Jazz Corner: There is Great Joy in Music, If You Listen
From vinyl records to compact discs to digital music and more
My warm wishes to all of you for a great 2017! Along with good health and merriment, here’s wishing that beautiful music also flows copiously into your lives in this New Year. I wonder how many of you have, at the beginning of this year, resolved to have more music in one’s life in ’17. Music certainly adds quality to life. I know for a fact, speaking from experience that jazz brings a great positive dimension to living. It has been a great friend to me.
The proliferation of technology in recent years has impacted most areas of life, among them how we listen to music. The availability of music has become universal — your little phone carries in it not only the entire encyclopedia but also the complete library of almost all music ever recorded. Wow! One can summon almost any musician or performance to appear on the small screen and deliver. To me, however, this creates a jack-of-all-trades type paradox. While every bit of music is available at the push of a button, does it not create a problem of what to listen to? It’s a bit like an ‘all you can eat’ lunch, where 105 dishes are laid out for you but you end up with only samples of a few. And when you end your meal feeling full but not satisfied, works that way with music too.
I don’t know how you handle your music listening but here’s a method you might want to try. If you like a particular song from an artist, try and listen to the whole album. Give it a listen, maybe a couple of times and I bet you will find more depth in the music than before. If jazz is your listening diet, you might want to find out who the accompanying band members are and who has made the arrangements. You might realize that you are ‘watching the whole film’ and not just the trailer. This might lead to your wanting to explore the music of the other musicians on the album, which can unearth some more interesting discoveries.
One other factor that might come into play is the quality of the sound reproduction. Sounds from laptop speakers or headphones will never deliver the full color of the music. A home system, however basic reproduces a warmer sound; it certainly causes less listening fatigue. All digital sound reproduction has been found to cause this kind of aural fatigue and there is a serious trend in recent times to go back to the warmer, analog sound of vinyl records. I can vouch from personal experience that listening to music on vinyl is very satisfying and one can listen for hours with no strain. Sadly, this is not a practical medium for those who listen ‘on the move.’ Of course, this experience fills a space but in Mumbai parlance it is more ‘time pass’ than ‘listening’. If you can, try and listen to music for the sake of the music alone.
On a subjective note, I have been a vinyl record collector for some years and greatly benefited when digital music, particularly compact discs entered the music scene. A number of people got rid of their long playing records to ‘move on’ to CDs. I went on a buying spree of vinyl records at that time. Would you believe that among many others, I acquired the long playing records of our Indian jazz ‘royalty’ Louiz Banks and Pam Crain. There were many albums I got at that time that I have never heard. I have resolved to open these albums one by one, play them and soak in the luxury of discovery of new music. I so look forward to this. Anyone care to join me for a listen? Happy sounds to you all in 2017.