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The Old Ways Pass

Your Humble Blogger has mentioned before how I have come to listen to music: a complicated system of ratings that allows me to randomly shuffle from thousands of songs I am not sick of. For the last seven or eight years, most of the time I am at home, this nearly-infinite playlist is on. Before that, of course, most of the music I listened to was in the form of an album of some kind. I had a few mix tapes, and a handful of CDs that collected different performers, but almost everything I listened to was forty-five minutes to an hour from one group of performers, in one musical style. I was born into the Age of the Album, and grew up in it, and that’s how I thought of music. Even the mix tapes were mostly ways for people to introduce me to new bands so that I could get hold of their albums, and then listen to the albums.

Of course, I was unusual, I am led to understand, because I never listened to commercial radio. Not by choice, anyway. Oh, that isn’t quite true—there was, oddly enough, a station in San Diego that I remember fondly from my childhood vacations, which introduced me to The Cramps. But I have always found radio commercials profoundly irritating—they don’t quite keep me from listening to baseball, but I do shut it off at times—and of course I never understood why I would listen to a song I didn’t like while waiting on the speculation that I might like the next one. I did do that sometimes for music videos, but then I was also less irritated by TV commercials as well, and in the heyday of the music video, I had cable and could waste a good part of a lousy three-minute song checking the other channels. Also, I was a teenager. Yich.

Where was I? Oh, yes—even in the Age of Albums, lots of people listened to a gallimaufry of music from different sources, on radio and in dance clubs, but I did not acquire the taste for it until sometime around 2000. What happened at that time (more or less, as I don’t really remember the years) is that I finally got tired of choosing CDs for the player, and as there was now the technology to play music continually, choosing only music I like, well, I adopted it. But I adopted it for home, when I was sitting at my desk by my computer; in the car, I still listened to CDs. Well, in 2000, I didn’t own a car, but I think I was listening to CDs on a Walkman-like device of some kind as I walked or rode the bus. I didn’t get a portable mp3 player until, I believe, 2005 or so.

I bring all of this up because I have finally, it seemed, got tired of listening to albums in the car. Our car stereo has no very easy injack for a mp3 player, and I find the player-to-radio adapters irritating, so I have continued to listen to CD albums in the car up until very recently, when to accompany my drives to and from rehearsal (and other places, although some of my driving is accompanied by WNPR, when they aren’t playing shows I dislike, such as three to four pm, repeated from nine to ten pm) I have put together a half-dozen mix CDs. I didn’t spend much time on them—I asked my player to cough up fifty or so good songs, and I threw twenty of them onto a playlist and burned it to CD, and then I did it again five more times, and will probably do a few more. Because it turns out that I really prefer the mixes to albums, even when they are good albums.

I find this change disconcerting, though. Not for practical purposes, as I know I can still choose to listen to a CD all the way though, if I get the hankering for a musical or a concept album. Just that the Age of the Album was my age, you know? And it’s over for me, now, too.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Sometimes, the old ways are best.

And now you're stuck listening to a mix of songs burned onto a CD played through your car speakers, like an animal in the wilderness.

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