Monthly Archives: August 2009

Atavistic garage bands

Elijah Wald in this FT article makes an interesting point about pre LP listening habits:

My father, born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1906, had a terrific memory for the hits of his youth and I grew up hearing “The Sheik of Araby”, “When Frances Dances with Me”, “Yes! We Have No Bananas”, over and over. I would sometimes ask, “Who sang that song?” – a normal question for any pop listener born after 1950. But it made no sense to him. Everybody sang those songs; that was what a hit was. Record dealers assumed the average customer would be happy with any decent performance of a hit – just as casual buyers of classical music still shop primarily on the basis of the composition and composer.

The charm of garage bands, who often play the same songs (e.g., “Hey Joe”), lies in precisely their permitting listeners to reconnect to that era when the personalities of musicians didn’t matter, and generic assumptions about them could suffice. There is the song and the attitude, but no faces and gossip.

Listening strategy

Taste is not important; it is the approach to listening that is definitive. We must have a “listening strategy” — see end of this Pitchfork article about impact of MP3s — it no longer suffices to pretend that organic responsiveness counts. There is no unmediated reaction to music; only what sort of reaction we are prepared to have. What are the ethical criteria for these listening strategies, I wonder.