In a world of iPods and media libraries, it’s almost impossible not to have musical A.D.D. I will be the first to admit that I’m a “scroller” usually looking for my next musical selection before the song in play has finished. And I realize that this can sometimes take away from the musical experience. It’s become so easy and necessary to multi-task, that I think many of us have forgotten how not to do it. But I wanted to channel that feeling I had growing up when my mom would put on a record, and from the outset of the first tune, I knew the musical adventure I would begin — hearing an album in the context the artist intended. So, it got me to thinking about the first album I fell in love with as a complete body of work, and the most recent album I had listened to from beginning to end.
This was my introduction to all music — period. This album by John Coltrane made me feel. It’s still one of my favorites today. It introduced magic, mysticism, and an acute awareness of myself. Sonically, it’s also pure bliss. The recording genius of Rudy Van Gelder scores once again here. This album tells a story so well. There isn’t a specific story, but there just is one, and there’s no more fulfilling way to hear this album than in its sequential entirety.
A “hit-single” music industry combined with the technology to have an entire music library at our fingertips is definitely part of the reason that I experience less of that feeling that I felt with Ballads. But every now and then, an album will come along and take me back to that place of a musical adventure. And I’m not looking for what’s next…
In recent years, there have been those albums that I just need to hear the way the artist(s) intended. Radiohead’s In Rainbows is definitely one of them. Jose Gonzalez’ In Our Nature is another. Most recently, its been singer Bilal’s Airtight’s Revenge. The singer’s 10-year record hiatus finally ended during the fall of last year, and I could not be happier. Talk about a musical journey, literally and artistically. I must listen to this album from beginning to end. The music mandates it.
I wish we would take more time to take in music more organically. In a recent conversation with pianist Robert Glasper, he spoke about a concert he just played at a university. In the first row, an eager group of students were thumbs ablaze as they were typing away on their mobile devices. Between songs, he blatantly asks the students, “So, are you guys in the ‘Too Cool Crew’ with your phones?” The students, caught off guard, began explaining that they were tweeting about how psyched they were to be at the concert, and they were letting everyone know, (probably taunting their peers in the process). While flattering, I’m sure, Glasper was making a point. Those students were missing the musical experience — the journey. Social networking is a great tool. One that I greatly depend on myself. But tweeting during a concert, or searching iPod libraries while “listening” to music, ultimately does us the disservice. Is it more important to let people know you’re at a concert, than to actually be there in the truest sense, experiencing it as completely as possible? The adventure still excites me…the journey I’ll travel with a body of work. Some of it happily and predictably anticipated, and some of it morphs with time and changes meaning as my life does. I think that’s really what music is all about. And it’s hard to experience those feelings being technologically sidetracked. So, every now and then, I make sure I stop and take the journey. And I’m better for it.