Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Shuffle off will ya

So what of this very modern thing of having music on shuffle ? Does it spoil, somehow the experience of enjoying the album whole, in the order that the artist, or producer intended ?

Growing up as I did in the era of vinyl and cassette tapes I'm characteristically ambivalent about the whole thing. When I was a lad, I would spend (waste) hours collating together the perfect combination of songs onto the same tape. I guess the relevance of deciding what songs were on 'side 1' and which were relegated to the relative obscurity of 'side 2'. What was this speaking with someone else's lyrics supposed to achieve ?

On a practical level it was to put into one place the songs that, at that time, you most 'digged' (wanted to listen to). Let's not forget this was precisely the time before ipods, MP3 players, years, decades before people came to understand that ripping wasn't something you did to paper you wanted to get rid of, and burning wasn't something you did to logs. Ah, those were the days. Trying to coax some life out of a pair of dying batteries. How the sound deteriorated steadily as the last breath of life is spent before the music stops completely.

It's funny, isn't it, how technology shapes our lives. How developments in science to fundamentally change our relationship with the environment and with each other. Is it really so, that now we carry music on our multifunction devices, our smartphones, that it ceases to be something that is special, that you savour ? Is the music now really just noise, not just to us, but also to those around us ?

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