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Vicious Cycle

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In the future, we will each only listen to one song.

I didn’t think I listen to a lot of music. I used to. I used to live for music. As a teenager, I’d lock myself in my room with only the company of Rick Dees and Ron Jordan on WMPS in Memphis and the only rock and roll on the air in my boondockie hills on the edge of the Mississippi delta.

They inspired me to be a disc jockey. I would lock myself in my room, listening to old 45s on a portable record player. Working on the details of each song, looking for the qualities that made it work — that made me want to listen to it. That made me want to be a part of music — me, this tone deaf guy who couldn’t play a piano, a guitar, even a radio.

But I figured out how to work in a radio station. Playing music when “digital” was a series of red LEDs in an expensive wristwatch.

The problem was that working in radio was like working in a sausage factory. When I saw how the sausage was made, I wouldn’t eat it. So I got real picky real quick about music.

As time went by, I quit listening to music. I couldn’t hear the soul or emotion. Only the soulless tastes of focus groups armed with yes-no knobs in darkened theaters listening to the first four seconds of a tune to see if they’d stay tuned to a station playing the whole song.

Then came CDs, with clearer sound than the slickest FM station. Then came the ability to burn your own CDs. Soon I had a collection of CDs with only my favorite songs, pages and pages of CDs in my car. It was like carrying a law book out every morning to make my commute. But it was a collection of only those songs I liked — 15 to a disc.

That was great.

But soon I found myself hitting the “skip” button past songs I liked to songs I loved. Even though there were 15 songs to a disc, I found myself playing only one or two over and over.

Then I bought an iPod.

Damn thing.

It’s a small one. Just one gig. A “Shuffle.” It holds 240 songs. Still, that’s more than half the play list of the major market radio station that burned me out on music in the 1980s. Yep. That station had only a little more than 400 songs — plus the week’s Top 20 — on its play list. A couple of days and you heard “The Boxer” again.

But I can change my frickin’ play list every day.

So I loaded the iPod with only my favorite songs.

That was great.

For two days.

Then I started hitting the “skip” button when the song wasn’t five stars.

I have only about 500 songs I really like on my computer. I’ll figure out how to rig my computer and iPod so that I can refine my play list.

But I’ll still find songs to skip.

Eventually, I’ll be down to one song.

I won’t need an iPod. I won’t need a CD. I’ll be back where I began: In my room, with a single 45, playing it over and over.

And that’s not so bad.

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About Terry Turner

  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    Excellent notes on the superfluity and over-abundance of stuff. What of changing tastes. The memories of a man in his dotage vary from those in his prime

    What would the single CD be?

    I vote for “The Cole Porter Songbook” or perhaps “What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been”

  • SFC SKi

    Sure, but the minute you divest yourself of all the other songs, you will wake up one morning and need to hear one of them again, and start buying your whole collection back. At least the 40GB iPod allows you to store probably every song ever made, and still listen to your one favoritre over and over again.

  • http://www.antequeravillarental.com alienboy

    good point SFC, it is basically impossible to have the just the right amount of music!

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    I’ve got my iPod mini up to about 700 songs and I find myself hitting skip twice for every song I actually listen to. I think I’ve got to trim it down to at least half of what I have now. Which makes me glad I bought a mini and not something bigger. I’ll fill the remaining 2/3 with old radio shows in WMV format and be happy.

    Dave

  • Eric Olsen

    very touching and evocative Terry, thanks. I can relate to much of it but I always find myself looking for the new and novel, I love the open-endedness of it all. I have a very hard time boiling it all down to “favorites” becuase I like different things for different reasons at different times.

    So what will the one song be?

  • http://www.thebeautifullull.com Tom Johnson

    First off: Dave Nalle, don’t commit to any Windows Media based format if you have an Ipod – the Ipod won’t play ‘em.

    Second, the Ipod has reinvigorated my interest in music. As I put more on it, I listen more, and want more choices to listen to. I have created a number of playlists – one for those “five star” songs (about 800 of 6500 songs) and others for specific genres or groupings of albums and artist. When I start skipping songs in one, I simply move to another and it’s like I’ve got a whole new collection of music to explore. And I recently started using the general shuffle for everything on my Ipod after nearly two months of a “selected” shuffle based on my playlists – again, it’s like having a whole bunch of new stuff in my collection to enjoy.

    I think the problem with people and the Ipod is that they don’t realize they’re still responsible for being creative with it. If you just let it play albums over and over, yes, you might get bored. If you make a playlist to only play songs that you haven’t heard in the last, say, 10 days, or a playlist that plays only songs with a specific word in the title, that gives you a fresh approach. And I delete as much off my Ipod as I load onto it every week – some things just wear out and I don’t want to hear them. I have plenty of room, but there’s some sport to be found in removing things – having all that room to store things might actually remove some of the fun of desiring to hear something, where keeping it on there for easy access, where it shows up routinely in shuffle-mode, might make it too familiar. Just be creative and daring – the Ipod really is the best personal radio station you could ever own. You just have to keep things fresh – or you wind up feeling like you’re listening to a real radio station that never mixes anything up.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    the blogcritics community will be shocked to know what i, mark saleski, luddite software developer…have all of a sudden gotten the urge to own an ipod.

    details will be forthcoming.

  • Eric Olsen

    Dawn has been mentioning it for a while now, too – some things offer something that has never been available the same way before and eventually you realize tha tsomething might be nice to have

  • http://www.thebeautifullull.com Tom Johnson

    Yes, do it Mark! I have a feeling you’re probably like I was prior to developing that inexplicable need to own one. I really worried about the integrity of “the album” as an entity due to the very “song-based” nature of the Ipod listening experience. And it is – and that’s the greatest thing about it, something I never, ever suspected I would enjoy. The sad thing is, it has highlighted the fact that I’ve grown out of a lot of music that I thought I loved – but never listened to. Forced to listen to it in shuffle on the Ipod, I have found myself with a resounding “ew” in my head upon hearing a number of songs and even entire artists’ collections. This is not so negative, however. With the Unknown Johnson due to arrive in August, I need excuses to excise pointless but valuable “junk” from my collection . . . and replace it with new stuff, I suppose!

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    this has nothing to do with downloading stuff and everything to do with podcasting.

    i’ll have a post up in the next coupla days or so. maybe tomorrow.

  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    Bill Gates said a while back that at least half of the iPods were filled with downloaded music – not that’s a bad thing in my books.

    I am personally a HUGE Windows Media Player 10 fan, although I do use iTunes and RealPlayer. The reasoning behind this would be subject for a forthcoming post

  • Eric Olsen

    here’s my concern: getting it from my CDs and albums onto the iPod (or whatever digital player). I can’t get past this being an enormous pain in the ass

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    exactly E. i won’t be doing much (if any) of that.

  • SFC SKI

    Transferring music from CD to iTunes on your PC to the iPod is very easy, when hooked to the INternet, iTunes finds the CD info and imports automatically if you set it up that way upon installation, and plays your tunes while it imports. The only problem I have is actually having the PC recognize my iPod when I hook it up, and that is more a PC problem than an iPOd problem according to the troubleshooting guide I have read.

    The key to enjoyable iPod use is playlists.

  • http://www.wallybangs.blogspot.com wally bangs

    I’m late in finding this, but I’m glad I did since it’s one of the best things I’ve read since joining Blogcritics. I spent five years of my life working in a used record store and while I never got completely burned out, a couple of the managers there hated music just because of overexposure to it. During my tenure there I was told the story about a girl who brought in a huge collection to sell. When asked why she was selling it, she said she had decided to choose quality over quantity and only own WHO albums.

    Your post reminds me of many nights looking through my collection for something to play only to discover a half an hour later that I don’t want to listen to anything.

  • SFC SKI

    “Your post reminds me of many nights looking through my collection for something to play only to discover a half an hour later that I don’t want to listen to anything.” that just means you need to go out and buy another album.