“There is a specific temporality to social media. It is a time of perpetual manufactured crisis, in which we are constantly being prodded, reminded, and cajoled into updating, clicking our approval or disapproval, or merely checking in and registering our presence.”
“But if social media constructs its own time, what kind of music would be specific to that temporality? If Muzak, the radio, and records each brought about their own distinct forms, shouldn’t streaming services too? What, we might ask, does Spotify want?”
– Robert Barry, The Music of the Future (2017), pp. 157-158.
Is this a thing?
Here and there in the city I’ve been noticing people walking and biking around with bluetooth speakers or their smartphones hidden in their backpacks, tucked in their pockets, or dangling from their belts, playing music. It’s like a mobile party of one. Yesterday, on an otherwise quiet street, I did a double take when I noticed music emanating from somewhere on a guy in the photo above.
And then he was gone, his beats fading away.
Earlier in the day I had also noticed that the mail woman had R&B coming out of her pocket as she pushed her cart down the sidewalk, immersed in the music, singing along. Maybe carrying small portable speakers on one’s person is a variation on booming car stereos, but with an intimate twist: the music is loud enough to overhear, though not intended for the overhearer per se.
When I was a kid some of us had boom boxes, though the serious machines always seemed to be in far away places like NYC where they were used to broadcast hip hop beats to all within earshot. I had a small machine, but I never travelled with it because of what had appeared around the same time: the Walkman, a portable cassette player with headphones. (View my documentary on headphones here.) The Walkman was magical because it afforded a private listening experience that matched music’s sense of inherent interiority.
Today most of us listen to music on our phones, so hearing music coming out of small speakers on people keeps surprising me into doing double takes. Why do you do that? I want to ask. Does music gain power when it is audibly public, heard by many instead of just one?
“An interesting pedagogic exercise in sonic economics: identify and attend to the most prominent voices of capital. At the time of this writing, candidates might be Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, Christine Lagarde, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and so on. Toward the other end of the spectrum: a humming child laborer in Bangladesh, the hoarse cry of a teen mercenary in Angola, the exhausted but perky voice of a telemarketer in the Philippines, or the impoverished and wheezing welcome of a Walmart greeter in Ohio. Thinking beyond the human voices of capital, we might include the squeal of a factory-farm pig, the boot-up sound of a Mac computer, the chime of Big Ben, the opening bell on Wall Street, or the ping of a black-box flight recorder from the bottom of the ocean.”
-Dominic Pettman, Sonic Intimacy (2017), p. 102, n.26.
• A short video on French artist and sculptor Pierre Soulages on his creative process and use of black paint.
“It’s the light that is the real tool!”
• An article about hearing loss and volume at popular music shows.
“If musicians and listeners are both suffering as a result of exposure to loud music, then why don’t venues just turn the volume down?”
• A Red Bull Music Academy documentary about Afro-Peruvian music (meeting electronic music).
“I believe that the best refresher for native music is to fusion it.”