I’ve been reflecting on the way I acquire and experience music has changed over the years. My adolescence was back in the days of vinyl, when singles cost six bob and a highlight of Saturday morning was going into town and buying the latest one. Stereo was a novelty, as was recording your tinny voice on a primitive cassette recorder.
Now I can barely remember the last time I actually bought a CD. Probably to listen to in the car, and that too will change with our next vehicle, which will have an MP3 dock built in. If I buy new music at all I download (being quaint and old-fashioned, I tend to do these things legally). I recently acquired an iPhone and it’s changed my life. Shallow I my be, but I do love the feeling of hearing a song on the radio and having it there in my phone ten minutes later. Saves a fortune in bus fares.
Increasingly, I don’t even pay directly for the music I listen to – I just stream it in on Spotify and find that there aren’t all that many songs I listen to regularly months or years after their release. It makes you far more adventurous when you don’t have to pay for things you might not even like.
At the gym, I use a separate iPod – I don’t feel comfortable working out with a phone hanging around my neck and anyway I don’t have the required lanyard – I’m not even sure they exist for iPhones (correct me if I’m wrong). I have a selection of playlists put together by my teenage son, selected on the basis of BPM, and very motivational it is too.
My latest download is the new Muse album. I quite like it, though I think the meaning of the word "reference" varies between the music industry and academia. In the latter, referencing means very precise laws of attribution and quotation. Muse, however, seem to borrow liberally and shamefully from everybody from Chopin (they use an entire Prelude of his) to Freddy Mercury. I think some of the shifts work better than others – for example, United States of Eurasia starts off as Bohemian Rhapsody lite, throws in a bit of Middle Eastern stuff and ends up with said Prelude. It all sounds a bit like genre surfing on your iPod.
The opening track, Uprising, is probably the strongest but I defy anyone on my flist to listen to it without imagining a blue box shooting through the Vortex. It’s ironic that fanfiction writers slave over elaborate disclaimers, while Muse seem free to lift the Doctor Who theme wholesale, make money out of it and call it a tribute.
Finally, this made me laugh. An excellent contrast to the operatic pomp of Muse’s Exogenesis.