At work I seem to have inherited the only set of speakers in the office which means I’m pretty much in charge of the music. With this development comes great responsibility. Keeping everyone happy is no mean feat. The music not only has to please the tastes of no less than six people but it cannot distract from the task at hand – getting on with work. Herein lies the rub. Music is no longer an entertainment 100% of the time. It provides the soundtrack.
In our parents’ day this wasn’t the case. When my parents scraped the money together to rent a flat the first thing they bought to furnish it was a record player to listen to their records on while they sat on makeshift cardboard boxes. They would put on a record in the same way we would sit down to watch a boxset nowadays (though arguably with the rise of mobile, said boxset is often accompanied by a twitter debate and indb’ing). Listening was the whole thing.
Nowadays my father – a stout music fan, a musicians’ accountant and a man who knows what he likes – says even he cannot muster the energy to listen to a record any more. They’re too short he says. ‘And when I’m cooking why would I want to have to walk back to the record player after 20 minutes to change sides?’ So there – even a former purist cannot enjoy music-listening in itself. It is an accompaniment to the ‘other stuff’ we find ourselves doing.
At one of the first places I worked (a home office with an incredible editor) radio 4 provided the sound. So perhaps it’s not about music losing its original grasp on our attention so much as a thirst for information, sound bites and entertainment that we think ourselves too busy to quench individually. We live in a multitasking era.
That said – I miss the art of listening to a record.