I don’t know about you, but iTunes has certainly changed the way I listen to music at home. In the car, I’m usually a radio girl, so things are much as they’ve always been during drive time, but at home, listening to my own collection, shuffle has become my default setting. It’s different: I never know what’s coming next and the variety makes things interesting. And besides, in many cases I have only one or two songs by an artist, the ones I downloaded because I particularly like them, something I used to dream of being able to do when there was only one song I wanted on a $16 CD and my choices were buy it or don’t.
But even with mostly positive change comes loss. Just as we’ve lost something of the joy of photography in not having to develop all the pictures on a roll of film to see the entirety of what we found worthy of our limited exposures, seeing the whole rather than the carefully-selected parts, I’d lost touch with the pleasure of listening to whole albums at once.
The other day, I drove to a friend’s house on a winding mountain highway. Along the way, my usual radio stations still came in, but with lots of static. Anyone who’s ever driven anywhere beyond the range of a radio station with me knows I Can’t Stand That. It bothers me beyond any reasonable reaction. It’s been ages since I drove alone into a static zone (ie with no one in the passenger seat to take charge of searching for good reception while I concentrated on the road), so I reached over and hit the CD button on the stereo. The only time I ever use the CD player in the car is on a road trip. I knew there were long-ago-inserted disks in the CD changer in my ten-year-old car, but had no idea what I’d be listening to.
What came on was an old Mary Chapin Carpenter album, Come On Come On. It’s the only CD of hers I ever owned. It was one of those random purchases years ago, because something about it appealed to me. Between the drive up to my friend’s house and back home again that day, I listened to it from start to finish, leaving it on even when I could easily have switched back to my default radio in the city.
I was struck by how much more I enjoyed the whole than the individual songs that pop up from time-to-time on my iTunes shuffle. I’d forgotten the work that artists put into choosing the order of songs, the mood, the overall feel of their albums. I’m glad Mary reminded me.
What are some of the albums you loved that you haven’t listened to from beginning to end in too long?