Dirty secrets

My dirty secret, as a musician, is that I enjoy listening to recordings more than going to concerts. Not because the quality is better–I’m often as happy to listen to a good student group as the symphony–but because I don’t have to watch the group performing without me.

Derek Sivers asks “what do you hate not doing?”

I hate not performing music. It’s one thing to listen to a recording, to know that the performance already happened. The actual performance is far enough separated from you that you can put the thought of participating aside and concentrate on the sounds.

It’s quite another to watch it in front of me, close enough to just run up onto the stage and join them. And especially hard to be in the audience for beautiful pieces I’m unlikely ever to play (works that need a large orchestra, for example)–knowing that the performers are in the middle of creating something beautiful and that I have to just watch. I hate not being part of it. Meanwhile, hearing someone perform something I can’t–a guitarist, for example, or a men’s choir–has nowhere near the same effect.

It’s nowhere near as compelling to play alone in my room; if it were perhaps I would practice more.

Random play

I keep my music player on random play, usually, because it chooses things for me I didn’t even know I wanted. (And sometimes I skip tracks.) I enjoy following a quiet classical piece with electronica, or nerd rock with Eastern European folk. Yes, I may be mostly responsible for the death of the album.

While finding things I didn’t realize I was in the mood for or had forgotten I enjoyed is great, finding an unexpectedly good segue is like hitting the jackpot. Usually this requires they flow into each other musically; sometimes it is thematic similarity also. Here are some I like:

* “Are You Gone?”, Cranes, into “Black-Dove (January)”, Tori Amos
* “The Unanswered Question”, Charles Ives, into “Trust”, The Cure
* “Holding Out For A Hero”, Frou Frou, into “I Don’t Know What I Can Save You From”, Kings of Convenience
* “Milonga Triste”, La Nueva Guardia, into “Army of Me”, Björk
* “Enjoy”, Björk, into “Mimi Pinson”, La Nueva Guardia
* “Army of Me”, Björk, into “Army Dreamers”, Kate Bush

(What? I like Björk.)

Some people enjoy technology because it allows them to find exactly what they would like and keep getting more of the same. I enjoy having it break up my patterns, allowing me to find exactly what I wasn’t looking for but should have been.