Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Ears for New Years

I received my coveted iPod (Nano) for Christmas from my honeypie. I'm not one for getting attached to my gadgets, but I freaking LOVE this thing. Strangely, listening to my tunes in this new way has changed my opinions about some of them. For example, now that I can hear some of the details of Fischerspooner (electronica band) more clearly, I like them even more. Ditto for Beck. On the other hand, I preferred not being able to understand what Outkast was saying. (Really? We're "pistol-whipping"? What does that even mean, Andre? Second thought...No, don't tell me.)

Have you ever experienced something similar? Your perception of music changing based on the medium through which it's delivered?


Bill Stankus said...

Welcome to the 'Pod Club!

There's one small thing you need to consider - upgrading the buds... you'll be pleased with even better sounds and how various buds fit more comfortably.

I use V-moda and I think my son's current pair is from Skullcandy.

kStyle said...

Thanks for the tip! My buds are a smidge uncomfortable, but! It helps preserve my ears by limiting the amount of time I spend.

Ann Forstie said...

I've found that plugging my iPod into my car has completely changed my relationship to music. It's really the only time I listen to it. (At home and when I'm working I prefer quiet, and at the gym I watch the TV.)

There's something about the environment of a car, the isolation and the changing scenery, that lends itself well to all my favorite songs. It enables me to tie memories to certain albums or artists: "Oh, I listened to these songs every day when I was driving back and forth from work and thinking about [xyz]."

I've learned that (generally speaking) the more familiar I am with a song, the better I like it. So I don't give up on music that I don't love right away.

Another thing that has affected my listening habits: music videos. But that's a whole long comment on its own, something about combining the visual with the audible...

Larry Jones said...

>>Have you ever experienced something similar? Your perception of music changing based on the medium through which it's delivered?<<

As a musician, I've had to listen in various not-normal ways all my life. Sometimes I've had to figure out the chords or the guitar part (or all the parts) of a pop song just by listening, and once you've done that you tend to hear all music more deeply. Also, I've listened to my own guitars and amplifiers over the years and tried to create a "better" sound, by adjusting settings, adding effects, changing strings, etc.

But when I became a recording engineer is when I really went through what you're experiencing now: We had to listen to each instrument separately, then combined with each other instrument and voice, then combined with all the instruments and voices. We had to make sonic "space" for each sound in the mix, a place where it could coexist with all the other sounds, both timbrally and spacially (i.e., positioned left-to-right and front-to-back), where it could be heard as much as it needed to be heard but not get in the way of another sound.

We had 15-inch studio monitors with high frequency drivers right in the center of the speaker cones, phase-aligned so all the sound would reach our ears at the same instant, with separate amplifiers for the speakers and the horns.

And when we thought we had it right, we'd switch to cheesy little 5-inch cubes sitting right in front of our faces, powered by a little home stereo amp. We'd combine the whole thing to mono to see if the magic held up, or if the mix became dull or if some stereo sounds got canceled. We'd make rough mixes and take them home to listen to on various home systems. We'd play the roughs in our cars, loud, soft, windows up, windows down.
In short, we had to check our work on as many sound systems as possible, and it was amazing how different things sounded in various locations. This was in the 70's and 80's, but if we'd had iPods and computers in those days you can bet we'd have been listening on as many different ones as we could.

So yes, I've experienced something similar. (Sorry -- too much coffee.)

kStyle said...

Ann: There is something magical about music and cars. Last night I was driving along a dark, wooded road that reminded me of a road connection Dighton and Rehoboth. First Nirvana and then Gin Blossoms came on the radio, and I worried that I'd been transported to '96 somehow. It was unnerving but also somewhat pleasant.

Larry: Fascinating! That is so, so interesting. May I suggest making it a post on your own blog? I suspect I'm not the only one who would be interested.

Narya said...

I lurve my Pod, too, though I rarely use it any more. The battery is starting to die, I think (the thing is 3rd generation and almost 5 years old, I think, which is ancient for something like that). Anyway, the way that it has changed the way I listen to music is that I can very easily create a playlist--way easier than creating a mix tape, say, or even a mix DVD. Though I still listen to "albums" straight through sometimes, or to concert bootlegs, because that has a different kind of immediacy to it.

I cannot wear earbuds at all. They all fall out. Every single pair i've ever experienced. I no longer even try.

kStyle said...

Narya: The playlist capacity is, indeed, very interesting. Have you tried out Genius in iTunes 8? Select a song and it makes a playlist from your other songs that go well.