Tuesday, December 11, 2007

STL #62: Done with ^unplayed

Technology and listening to music.

I made a small move the other day--I deleted a carat (^) from the name of a playlist on iTunes--that's going to have a determinative effect on what music I listen to. An on-again off-again obsession of mine from at least six months was listening to a huge number of songs that I had in my iTunes library but had never listened to on my iPod or computer. That least was huge when I created a 'smart' playlist of all songs with a playcount of 0. This generated a playlist of over 5,000 songs. That number is a little misleading, since it reflects the uploading of many CD's over the summer. Many of these CD's we had had for years, and if we felt like listening to them, we simply put it in the player. But since we resolved to sell those artifacts, I uploaded dozens of CDs with a failing drive. Unfortunately, I was to learn that many of those unheard tracks had blips toward the ends of the songs, and some had distracting skips and blips throughout, to the extent that they are unlistenable. I came to this realization after months of dedicated listening to a playlist I titled "unplayed," or more precisely, "^unplayed." The non-alphabetical symbol caused that playlist to rise to the top of my many playlists, so it was always handy for listening.

As I said, I'm done with ^unplayed for now. At the moment that I'm typing this, there's a trivial 322 songs left to be played, and many of those are classical pieces I listened to intently on CD before uploading for posterity. My present listening is mostly recent music, the smart playlist ^December, and a random shuffle through outside authorities' ^bestof2007. So much of my music-listening is done on my iPod, as I walk to work or walk the dog, that I didn't much regret getting rid of my CDs. Some remorse is creeping in, as the limitations of the mp3 format become apparent. Perhaps when the money loosens up a bit, I will buy the occasional CD that I want to sit down and listen to intently. An upcoming listening project is to rent DVD's of operas, which we'll watch one day a week as a movie. That kind of attention is a model of music listening that I admire but seldom followed, apart from my recent classical education project.

This post has been incubating for so long that I'm disappointed to see how boring it is turning out. Among the notes on how technology has affected my listening to music is "emusic/open source movement," which alludes to the fact that most of our musical acquisition in 2007 was through the online music store eMusic. Only independent labels comfortable with releasing tracks without DRM (and for cheap) are on eMusic, obviously affecting what I listen to. You might link this with the ideological freeware of the open source movement--a democratic mass of individuals courageously offering there labor for little, trusting that they will be paid back by a changed world. That's a crude homoloy that I only mention to satisfying my nagging past self who made the note.

Mentioning eMusic also allows me to make a top 10 of 2007, since we're on the subject of new music. Most, not all of these came through that pipeline. I used play count for music added in the last 400 days to determine what should be on here, then used my judgment to finalize it. For the first time, these mix single tracks with increasingly irrelevant "albums."

1. Lily Allen, Alright, Still
2. Amy Winehouse "Rehab"
3. Panther, "You Don't Want Your Nails Done"
4. Jens Lekman, Night Fell on Kordova
5. Dude n Em "Watch My Feet"
6. The National, The Boxer
7. Burial, "Ghost Hardware"
8. Pigeon John, "Growing Old"
9. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
10. "Lindsay Lohan," Spank Rock

Eh, I'm not crazy about that list, so maybe I'll revise it in a month or so.