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Have We Lost the Art of Listening to Music?

One side effect of technology is a shortened attention span. Think about it: how long does it take you to hit the “skip” button when a song you don’t want to hear comes on? And I get it. Life is too short to listen to bad music–and there’s so much music out there.

In the old analogue days, it was often too much trouble to walk across the room to skip over an unwanted song on a vinyl album. Even in the days of the CD, we’d often listen through a song because we didn’t know where the remote was. We ended up listening to entire albums (or at least album sides) and sometimes–not always–this enforced listening revealed much about what the artist was trying to say with the music. We learned to listen instead of consuming songs like so many Doritos.

Have we lost the art of listening to music? You gotta wonder. This is from The Guardian.

“I’m going to turn some lights off now – enjoy your session.”

Jean-Philippe Ducharne, an organiser of Classic Album Sundays, is speaking to a room of strangers in a Sydney bar, poised to hear Lauryn Hill’s 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. In full, on vinyl, no chatter.

People recline on pillows and slouch on couches, but still, you can feel it. The collective uncertainty. An edge of entrapment. The album is 70 minutes long. What are the rules again, exactly? “Think of it like a movie,” says co-organiser Jim Poe.

This is the Sydney chapter’s fifth listening session, although the now-global event has been running for six years in London. It was founded by New Yorker Colleen Murphy who “wanted people to hear music … contextually, communally, uninterrupted and in the best sonic detail possible”. In London, listening cafes are popping up left and right. Londoners, I suspect, are better at the uninhibited embrace of such concepts than antipodeans quick to wince at any whiff of wankery.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37816 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

4 thoughts on “Have We Lost the Art of Listening to Music?

  • To some extent, technology has dampened our ability to sit through a record we probably would have in the past, but at the same time in some ways, it has improved the quality of sound of what we do choose to listen to.

  • I once came across a stat that in this day and age, an artist isn’t considered relevant after 6 months. Ask a Millennial to name a Led Zeppelin or Beatles song. Chances are they can’t

  • That is true but is it due to an overkill in the use of technology or just the lifestyle of a millennial?
    I do definitely see your point.


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