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Columns > Jesse Jarnow - Brain Tuba

Published: 2005/02/03
by Jesse Jarnow

Tunes A Go Go

Opening 0:25 1/30/05 11:58 PM The Olivia Tremor Control
Carefree 10:06 1/31/05 12:39 AM Phish
Cora Materno 4:17 1/31/05 12:44 AM Veloso, Caetano
Technology is music’s kinky mistress. It’s been said often enough that peer-to-peer file trading and personal mp3 players crooned the death knell for the album, but what a warbling and weird death knell. Like the post-modernists’ "death of the author" brouhaha, the album didn’t really die (‘think I’ll go for a walk…’), though the expression does usefully measure a subtle fissure (and potential cataclysm) in the way we relate to music. But whatta dramatic way to put it, huh? ‘Death’ aside, we’re sure as shit still listening, even in 40/50/60 minute chunks that define an album length, we’re just not doing it in grand sequences determined by the musicians.
Today Has Been A Fucked Up Day 2:28 1/31/05 12:46 AM Beck
Engine 143 3:19 1/31/05 12:50 AM The Carter Family
Someone who listened to four or five hours of music a day before the "death of the album" is likely still listening to four or five hours of music a day, probably in roughly the same windows of time. That is to say, the likelihood of him having an emotional experience while listening to music is exactly the same as it always was. It’s just the arrangement that’s become more flexible. When Brian Wilson reconstructed the columnated ruins of Smile into a gleaming facade last year, it turned out that his creative block was merely getting the songs in the right order. By cosmic logic, it was a creative challenge more fit for the early 21st century than the mid-20th.
Their Hearts Were Full of Spring 2:32 1/31/05 12:52 AM The Beach Boys
Feels Blind 3:21 1/31/05 12:57 AM Bikini Kill
Listening to an album often creates a sense of sonic place, the (perhaps unconsciously) consistent landscape built by recordings made at one time, in one place, by one artist (give or take). Listening to music on shuffle just as equally creates a sense of place, but with far broader borders. I sometimes imagine a city, and – when occasionally encountering a few favorite megabytes within the expanses of nearly 40 gigs – often think "fancy meeting you here!" as if I had just crossed paths with "Autumn Sweater" or "I’ll Come Running" sitting on a bench in the middle of a well-tended park in a bubbled city beneath stunning blue skies.
The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll 5:25 1/31/05 1:02 AM Dylan, Bob
Birthington 2:52 1/31/05 1:05 AM Arkenstat, Joey
Mix tapes have long been possible, of course, but they were never practical if one was serious about creating a satisfactory sequence. If he wanted to flip one tune for another, he’d have to recopy the whole thing. Now, listening from a harddrive or iPod, the variety open to a listener at any given time is baffling. It’s a conundrum in perfect harmony with the contemporary data smog that effects the way we gathers news, music, and information.
Asskizz Powergrudge (Payback ’94) (‘Beercan’ single) 3:06 1/31/05 1:08 AM Beck
The End Has No End 3:07 1/31/05 1:11 AM The Strokes
And though there has a long been a multiplicity of sources, there was often a consensus about what the primary outlets of popular culture would be. Rolling Stone, for example, was (at one time) the magazine of record for popular music — that and there was something nationally recognized as popular music. That’s not to romanticize a hegemonic Wenner Media-run utopia, just to (metaphorically) claw at my hair and screech about how I need some fucking order around here, dank you vedy much.
Sing For Me 4:23 1/31/05 1:16 AM The Fiery Furnaces
The Moon Struck One 4:08 1/31/05 1:20 AM The Band
Yes, yes, order. If Brian could spend 30 years looking for the right order among what he created himself, I imagine I could easily spend 30 years looking for an order for what I’ve accumulated (and will continue to accumulate), whittling and scraping. In the summer of 2000, sitting in a diner in Santa Cruz, I made a list of songs in my journal ("Nightswimming," "California Stars," "Crazy Fingers," and others) that I thought of as sharing a certain quality of prettiness. They (and about 12-and-half hours worth of other tunes) now reside in an oft-shuffled playlist that forms a flawless, quiet universe.
Lazy Old Sun 2:47 1/31/05 1:23 AM The Kinks
Movie on the Way Down 7:40 1/31/05 1:31 AM O’Rourke, Jim
In my building, with perhaps as many as two dozen criss-crossing wifi signals, about a half-dozen shared iTunes libraries occasionally show up on my computer. I can see my neighbors’ playlists, their own moods reflected. Of course, now that I wanna copy some of ‘em down, they’re all conspicuously gone — except for one whose most-played song is "The Man in Me" by Bob Dylan, mysteriously labeled as "A Woman Like You." See, even if we don’t know quite what’s going on, we will have order. There’s a voyeuristic thrill in seeing other people’s personal organizational systems and listening habits.

Visions Of Johanna 7:33 1/31/05 1:39 AM Dylan, Bob
Run Like An Antelope 13:43 1/31/05 1:53 AM Phish
In the end, who knows if this really is a big change or not. But, certainly, many of the people I know who use this technology have confessed pleased amazement with Apple’s mechanisms of chance — and now Apple is even marketing a device called ‘iPod shuffle’ (presumably in response to the feature’s popularity). To paraphrase Frank Zappa: albums aren’t dead, they just smell funny — which is to say, they smell at all.
Bandit Cole Younger 2:57 1/31/05 1:56 AM Crain, Edward L.
2+2=5 [Live] 3:34 1/31/05 2:02 AM Radiohead
Pink Bullets 3:51 1/31/05 2:05 AM The Shins

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