Monday, July 04, 2005

Chance Meeting

There is no substitute for the impact that music makes on you when you are a teenager.

Never mind that for the rest of your life you hear more and more widely varied music than you ever even knew existed; the songs and bands that captivated you when you were young take on special place and meaning.

No doubt this explains much radio programming, a carefully selected set of familiar songs guaranteed to elicit maximum teenage flashback in their aging audiences, all the while bombarding those listeners with exhortations to spend their adult incomes on this and that.

Listen to such radio for more than a day, and any truly meaningful emotional impact of remembrance and association is crushed. For that reason, I do not listen to music radio at all any more.

But even if I did, the number of songs of any period that would actually be destroyed by overexposure is extraordinarily limited. A playlist of no more than 300 songs often suffices for these targeted radio programs. A stunningly small number, even accounting for the restrictions placed by the date of origin of the music.

Of course, such a limited playlist forces the same songs to be overplayed even more. I can happily say that I hear, for example, Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" perhaps once a year and solely because I want to play it. At that frequency, it is actually a very powerful and enjoyable song.

No, my own 'radio' consists of my own record & CD collection, transferred to hard drive and played back using WinAmp's random shuffler. I have no idea what I am going to hear. All I know is that I own it, and have heard it at least once before.

The astonishingly thing about such a system is that these randomly chosen songs - out of 1000s of songs - more often than not seem completely appropiate to my listening wants. It is a rare session where I do not hear something that I am very glad that I did. Many times I had even been thinking of it beforehand.

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