Today we are introducing the first installment a new feature here at 3 Minute Record. We've asked a few local musicians to take a topic they're passionate about - music - and discuss a particular aspect that they feel needs to be expressed. We'd like to keep this going so if you are a local musician and have a opinion, rant, gripe, beef, stance or just want to jump up on the soapbox to express something coherent to the music community please contact us. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the author are his own and do no necessarily reflect those of the owners of this site. - Scott Allen
I just can’t understand where our attention to music has gone. Now that such grandiose pieces of art have been reduced to small digitized versions, they snuggly fit into our pockets and are available 24 hours a day. Does the convenient and constant availability of music change the way we judge its qualities? With so many daily distractions around us, how can we possibly give our full attention to the music that people have spent countless hours crafting and refining in a span of a few convoluted minutes?
I was in the middle of a conversation about amazing records with a friend the other day but couldn't list anything new I was enjoying. Suddenly, I realized that it had been quite a long time since I was excited about any music that was new to me. In years past, I had anticipated the release of a record with such enthusiasm that I immediately rushed home to sit and listen to it several times in a row. Surely there was some explanation to this gap in time. Had musicians finally run out of new ideas that excited me? Were they simply re-making the classics or repeating formulas over and over with little success? After I reflected on my own activities, it was then that I realized my flawed logic. It wasn’t the music that had let me down; it was the other way around. I hadn’t really taken the time and given my full attention to the music that artists were producing all around me. How could I have let this happen?
I've spent the last few months just listening to 30 second clips of songs in between stops in my car rather than sitting down and intensely listening to an entire well-crafted album. I realize that for most of us with extremely busy lives this is the reality of how much time we can devote to these things. But I refuse to accept that we can't fight against the constant narrowing of our attention to such random and small windows of time. We cannot let the things from which we once drew such inspiration simply become white noise in the background of our lives.
My wife and I started a Record Night listening party a few years ago when we were dating. In my small Dogtown apartment, a few of us gathered and shared music that each person was really digging at the time. Old, new, rare, vinyl, CD, mp3; any and all media forms were accepted. The medium or familiarity of the music didn't really matter; what did was our intent to stop and take time to listen and share the songs. It was always a great time and most of us really tried to focus on listening to the music at hand. After a year or so Record Night just became a big party and the background noise of all the people was too loud to even hear the music. I think it was less fulfilling for us because we got away from really focusing on the music just as I believe all of us do from time to time. We haven't hosted a Record Night in quite a while now, but I’ve been thinking about starting it up again to give it a second chance.
Although a formal music listening party is a great idea, it isn't really necessary to break up the monotonous routine of our lives for a bit. Any of us can simply immerse ourselves in some meaningful music for an hour or two each week. I’ve found that it takes me multiple iterations of listening to a new album to really catch the subtle nuances that may be carefully woven in the sound scape. For instance, it took me years of listening to “Since I’ve Been Loving You” to hear John Bonham’s squeaky kick drum pedal, but now it’s one of my favorite parts of the recording. It’s small things like that about a record that we each love in our own way and make it truly great to us. How many amazing albums are out there to which no one has given their full attention but might fall in love with had they done so? I can tell you from personal experience that it takes a ton of effort and time to write, record, mix, & print a record. With so much invested in making the music, doesn’t it deserve our full attention and time when listening to the results?
Jeff Johnisee, musician and avid listener, plays guitar/vocals for St. Louis based band Franklin Felix. The band is currently finishing work on a full-length album to be released later this year.You can find the group on Facebook.