"The Autumn of the Multitaskers"

Simon Reynolds sent a nice email about this project, and my response back touches on some issues I wanted to address here anyway, so I'll rejigger some of that for this post.

The first thing to mention is Walter Kirn's "The Autumn of the Multitaskers," published November '07 in The Atlantic Monthly. Read it and see how many times you flinch.
I, of course, didn't see it in the magazine but in the Best American Magazine Writing 2008 book--easily my favorite of the yearly anthologies--while on a plane going to Minneapolis for Christmas. Which kind of says everything, right? It was that trip home for the holidays that spurred SLM in the first place, and Kirn's essay played no small role in that, so I'd like to belatedly thank and acknowledge him for that.

Simon asked about "slow listening" as an idea--surely the intent should be closer to "deep listening," right? Well, maybe. The idea isn't to clean up my listening habits so much as my consumption habits. Slow Food isn't about eating slowly so much as eating with a greater degree of education of what your food comes from, as well as all the localizing/agribusiness part of it, which I won't be replicating in my own experiment but is pretty close to SFM in intent. (Fast food, after all, refers to preparation time, not necessarily eating time, though there are obviously major correlations.) If I were to really go for a Slow Food parallel league, it would involve more live shows than I'm planning to see--I almost never go out anymore--and of course tons of local music, which is not really part of the plan. The idea not so much being to listen deeply as a general consciousness about what I'm putting in my ears.

But even in my usual multitasking sort of way one thing I'm finding is that the more premeditation that goes into an album or MP3, the keener my standards are for it. That's actually gratifying because there have been times, particularly in '08, when I wondered how stringent I was really being as a listener. I still like all of the singles and albums I listed for year's end, of course, but even with those diamonds-in-the-rough, it was almost impossible to carve any real sort of narrative from my selections. (Clearly the election drained most people's energy--Simon's "theory of vibe migration" writ large.)

Simon asked if I
"have ever gone so far as to . . . [shamed whisper] save up links for later DLling." I've mentioned my Word doc ere before. Right now it has about 70 items. Add to that the two "digital promos" email folders, which total 90. This is its own lesson: normally I'd have scarfed many of them up, threw 'em into a folder, then added them in bulk to an iTunes playlist and waded through them slowly-but-surely . . . until a point of no return is reached, which doesn't take all that long. Last year, when I spent a month traveling from NYC to Seattle by Amtrak, stayed in six cities, etc., a ton of my listening was done to singles/downloads, and it was great fun--singles listening can make you feel attuned to the present like nothing else. And of course I heard loads of stuff I really enjoyed. But when I got home I spent a week listening to nothing but albums.

Singles listening, exclusively, for a month, burns you out, big time. (Burnt me out, anyway.) I like immersing myself in them but it's harder to justify that--until recently I had three columns, two of which basically paid all my bills. Now I have one that pays my phone and cable bills if I'm lucky. So there's already less of a justification for just listening all the time, as well as watching TV, going to the movies, trying to read something other than the friggin' internet all day long . . . somewhere in those 160-or-so as-yet-unheard MP3s there may be a good two dozen that I'll adore, and I'll probably get to those eventually, but it's just hard to care right now. Part of it is not wanting to think about music quite so much after a month of year-end lists etc., which I obviously enjoy. But as Simon mentioned in the email, "It does prey on the mind the invisible weight of all that sound." T
aking my time to get to all those freebies (bestowed on me by publicists or simply other bloggers) lifts some of that weight; the guilt of not knowing is lighter than that of having them sitting there, waiting to be heard.

No comments:

Post a Comment