For many decades I have been collecting albums, live recordings, bootlegs, outtakes and any other kind of ear candy. I started with vinyl and then cassettes for the car and then CDs and MP3’s and now streaming music. Throughout all of these iterations, I have tried to discover more and more different kinds of music from different kinds of artists from every corner of the globe. I have my favorites, of course, but the thrill of discovery may be the most favorite thing of all.
I invariably engage in contextual listening. The purely aesthetic experience is always there – and I certainly know what I don’t like – but I’m always thinking about how one title sounds next to another – as a DJ would select track after track to purposefully create specific feelings and reactions on the part of the listeners.
Context is not limited to how one song followed by another may reveal previously unknown aspects o both works. Context includes the familiar personal, social, racial, political and economic aspects of work. Sometimes these aspects are front-and-center and sometimes they are hidden. Sometimes these aspects inform a negative view following a positive aesthetic reaction. In such a scenario, the listener is really forced to make a choice and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Active listening is always encouraged!
My focus here is on this narrow type of context – that generated by modern convenience of being able to shuffle, with apparent randomness, through tens of thousands of songs with no overarching connection other than that they are in MY collection. That will be the jumping off-point and from there I’ll engage the music in whatever manner it strikes me.