Important Data For Use In Listening To My Greatest Albums List
Submitted by AfterHours on Sat, 07/07/2007 - 12:26
- The following are key points that are all helpful, and in large part necessary, towards successfully listening to, understanding, and greatly enjoying, the albums on my greatest albums list. See my "Greatest Albums of All Time (Reviewed)" and/or my "Greatest Albums of All Time (Rated)" lists on this site. Combined with ascending the list in my recommended order (see "Recommended Order You Should Follow When Tackling My Greatest Albums List"), and you are virtually guarenteed to find from my list extraordinary music that will forever change the way you view art, and that will have a profound impact on your life.
- 1. YOU SHOULD UNDERSTAND WHAT 'GETTING' AN ALBUM MEANS AND ENTAILS.
- I didn't fully realize it until this morning but this has been wildly misinterpreted (probably my fault) at least a few times. 'Getting' each and every album is what you're striving for in listening to my list, so it is important one knows what the heck that really means.
- 'Getting' an album means the following: "the result of the listener having arrived at a position of very thorough understanding of the artists' expressed emotions, then willingly and intentionally assuming commensurate position as the artists' own, willingly and intentionally adopting and experiencing the artists' personal vision, and thus experiencing commensurate emotional power as the artist felt upon creation of the work itself."
- So, you see, it is not just listening to an album until you know it cold. It is a phenomenon that requires participation from you. Once you know it cold, you must then decide that this is a place you want to enter, and then willingly and intentionally do so. Then it is up to you to experience the artists' emotions, and if this is something you want, it will then natuarally occur. The ability and potential to do that is built up simply by listening to the album over and over again until thorough understanding is achieved. After this, the action of experiencing the emotions commensurate to the artist, is always at the listeners' disposal, but will only happen if he wants it to without reservation. And if he wants it to happen, it will happen at will. For easier albums it will take less listens to build up to this point. For challenging ones it will take more listens. This is because the more a person confronts something, the more he gains the ability to understand it. The more he understands it, the more sensitive he becomes to be able to experience it and make it his own. Usually a person will just naturally want to experience that thing if he has already confronted it for so long, already worked up all this understanding, this affection for it. And in all cases so far, this has eventually held to be true, 1 for 1. But it should be noted that underscoring all of those cases was a listener who already wanted to do so, and already had adopted all of the prerequisites as described in this list/article, as well as following my advice on the order they should listen to the albums in. So, this all harks back at why the 'prerequisites' detailed in this list/article are so important and also illuminates why my greatest albums list is certainly not for everyone. Not everyone is willing to delve straight into the emotional experiences of others. There is too much vulnerability there, or it reveals too much about themselves. Or, it's too strange or frightenening. However, if they do want to, they will experience the emotions being expressed. It is integral to want to do this in order to 'get' the full results of the albums on this list. And doing so is a power of choice that only you can decide whether or not to do. Your ability or potential to understand could be said to be infinite. Your willingness to experience potentially is too, but it is an active decision first requiring that willingness.
- I want to give some examples to shed further light on these phenomena. I will take Rock Bottom, an album that has been the subject of much deliberation between some members of this site and myself recently. I want to illustrate precisely what I mean here, and the difference between "duplicating an album" and "getting an album".
- I've listened to Rock Bottom about 200 times. I first really 'got it' on the level described in the definition above, by about the 35th listen. At this point after 200 listens I love it more than ever. But, there have been many times since first 'getting it' where I haven't 'got it'. Huh? Let me explain. About 3 weeks ago I was listening to the album at work. I heard all of it, I knew it was there playing, but nothing really came of it for me. I wasn't moved or inspired by it. The album came out of the speakers, I listened, and it passed me by, and I put on another album. What happened? Well, during that particular listen I was distracted by work and was not "willingly and intentionally assuming commensurate position as the artists' own, willingly and intentionally adopting and experiencing the artists' personal vision, and thus experiencing commensurate emotional power as the artist felt upon creation of the work itself." I sure as hell had the first part of the definition down pat: "...the listener having arrived at a position of very thorough understanding of the artists' expressed emotions..." I arrived at that way back on the 35th listen, but for this particular listen of Rock Bottom I was not 'getting' it. I was listening to it and duplicating it and nothing more. Without your willingness and intention towards 'getting' the albums, nothing is likely to happen except for some great and interesting music playing.
- It is like this with any album. Some are much easier to be willing to delve into than others because there are less complications, they are already familiar and safe emotionally, and so forth.
- Let's take my position with The Beatles for instance. I certainly understand them and have listened to their albums hundreds of times. I used to 'get them' but now I no longer do. I could if I wanted to but I am no longer willing. I've been exposed to music that is far more important and worthwhile to me, and so consider it mostly to be a waste of valuable time to sit down with a Beatles album and go 'get it'. I don't consider the emotional experience they are communicating to be astonishing or profound enough to be worth 'getting it'. Someone else however could really want to hear and experience the type of music the Beatles play, and find that experience very worthwhile, so they, being willing, will now listen to The Beatles and not only understand them, but will 'get them' and have an experience commensurate to the emotion in which The Beatles are playing with (usually enthusiasm or the playful thrill of discovery). I could easily do the same, but I'd simply rather spend my time with new or singular emotions that are harder to come by. Because of my unwillingness to 'get' a Beatles album nowadays, I will almost uniformly find their music to be boring if someone were to play them in my vicinity, whereas if I chose to be willing to 'get it', I would then find the album to exhibit its actual emotional qualities. I would find A Hard Days Night to be fun, instead of boring. I would find Abbey Road, especially in the medley, to hold a build up of rather momentous excitement and eventual emotional release, instead of being boring. I know and have experienced the qualities in The Beatles albums (which is how I base my ratings of them), but I am no longer willing to spend the time and involvment 'getting them'. Pretty much any album rated a 7.25/10 or below in quality by me, despite being a good album, and my knowing this and having experienced it, is still so far below what I now want to spend my time experiencing with music, that instead of sounding as good as their rating to me, they will be boring due to my unwillingness to 'get them', as I sit there feeling that I could be using my listening time much more valuably.
- 2. YOU MUST BE WILLING AND DETERMINED TO 'GET' EACH AND EVERY ALBUM BEFORE BEGINNING THE LIST.
- It is important that you do not start off as a skeptic or someone who is "just trying to see if there is anything here that might be good". There are some who have tried it this way and it just doesn't work. Their first taste of failure and then cynicism kicks in, skepticism reigns, and they're toast. They will never make it since their skepticism grows by the mile as soon as they find an album difficult. So it is imperitive that you dedicate yourself beforehand to the list, because there are going to be bumps in the road. 'Getting' all these albums is no easy feat, but is extremely worthwhile to the wanting music listener. As you are the one who will be listening to the albums it is especially important that you have no back off on going up the list. You must be determined to experience and push through the barriers of 'getting' certain albums that have little prerequisite within your listening history. You must trust that there is an end in sight that each and every album holds the potential to sooner or later reveal itself to be amazing for you. Until 'getting' an album you should choose someone who's walked the same path with these albums. IMPORTANT NOTE: If you absolutely cannot put this much trust in my list before dedicating yourself to it, you should choose one of the easier albums from the list, such as The Doors, or Blonde On Blonde or maybe one you haven't heard, such as Spiderland or Desertshore (I've found Nico's Desertshore and Slint's Spiderland to both be somewhat unchallenging to most, as well as excellent representations for what kind of unique and profound music is in store for you on the list). Then, truly dedicate yourself exclusively to that album, listening to it as many times as necessary in a time span of relatively short succession, until you really 'get it'--until it blows you away, until it becomes a profound work of art for you. Then use this as motivation to do the rest of the list, preferably in the "recommended order". You should know that all of the albums are based on the same ratings scale so, while each and every one is quite different from the last, the same factors have been taken into account for each when determining their level of genius. This means that if you fall in love with one of them it is very reliable to expect to eventually fall in love with all of them.
- 3. YOU SHOULD ADOPT A PURPOSE FOR LISTENING TO MUSIC THAT IS FAR ABOVE MERELY "GETTING A KICK OUT OF IT" OR "HAVING A NICE TIME". WHILE THE ABOVE AREN'T BAD PURPOSES AT ALL, THEY ARE NAMBY-PAMBY COMPARED TO WHAT YOU SHOULD BE SHOOTING FOR ON THIS LIST. YOUR PURPOSE SHOULD BE IN LINE WITH OR SIMILAR TO THE FOLLOWING: "WANTING TO TRULY EXPERIENCE THE EFFECTS OF THE MOST SINGULAR, PROFOUND AND ASTONISHING JAZZ AND ROCK ALBUMS EVER CREATED".
- The reason why it should be this or something like this is because THAT is what these albums represent, so if this isn't what you're looking for, you shouldn't waste your time with my list. If it already is what you're looking for, then by all means, get moving on it. You will eventually be fulfilled more than you can probably imagine.
- 4. YOU MUST BE A SERIOUS ENOUGH MUSIC LISTENER TO WHERE YOU ARE WILLING AND INTERESTED IN DEVOTING A PORTION OF TIME FROM YOUR LIFE TO ATTENTIVELY LISTEN TO THESE ALBUMS.
- The less time you have the harder it is to truly move up the list. If you transport by riding the bus, bring a portable CD player and listen to these albums. If you have a CD player in your car, do the same. Listen to the music when you get ready in the morning...or in the evening, when you're cleaning your room, doing the dishes, etc. And by all means, make it go right and set aside some time to sit down and really listen to each and every album in an undisturbed environment where you can really focus on the music.
- 5. YOU MUST UNDERSTAND THE EMOTIONS IN MUSIC EXPRESSED THROUGH THE USE OF UNCONVENTIONAL AND FREELY COMPOSED SONG/TRACK STRUCTURES.
- Most commercial music, such as that found on the radio, is in predictable structures: verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-repeat-end...or something like this. Songs usually have a few lines, one shift in momentum that leads into the chorus, and then a catchy chorus. It is important when doing this list to be willing and interested in taking unexpected detours and trips from these conventions, and to be willing and interested in engaging in much longer compositions on the norm. There are few common structures in the songs/tracks on this list. And there are many songs that extend past the 7 minute mark. I recommend you learn to take this as a blessing to experience more emotion from the artist. A long song can be a thing of awe and wonder, as incredible changes and moments of power often result when there is more room to speak artistically. Additionally, the following should be noted and understood: I find unconventional songs and structures to usually be far more emotional than songs that are short and conventional. With these you can tell that the artist put a lot more attention into the composition and it seems to be a much more personal communication to the listener as a result, since the detail he applies to making it different is a revelation of his own individuality. Compare this to a pop song where the performer often places basic melodies and less thought-provoking ideas into a rigidly formed structure that seems to limit his expression. An unconventional songs' structure is usually produced by and based on the emotional expression of the artist, whereas the emotional expression of the artist of a conventional, predictable song tends to be sacrificed in order to fit into its rigid structure and limited format. Simply put, uncoventional songs/tracks often allow an artist to truly express himself.
- 6. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS KEEP THE FOLLOWING DATA IN MIND WHILE LISTENING TO THESE ALBUMS. THIS POINT IS VERY IMPORTANT!
- Emotion will come out of all of these albums in the following ways:
- (A). INGENUITY: The albums will possess striking originality and unprecedented emotional capacity that will frequently be wholly new, and oftentimes completely outside regular human experience and interaction. IMPORTANT: This is something you should learn to cherish. There is a certain awe to an artist who is willing and dedicated to saying something that is truly original and totally his own. There is a sense of unveiled secrecy and awe towards something that is happening that has never happened before, that is a new discovery or feeling. When experiencing this, realize you are potentially having a new experience as regards art, and that you are adding to your life experience by now establishing new boundaries for yourself for what you are willing to experience.
- (B). EXPANSION OF CONTENT: The albums will often have songs/tracks and structures within songs/tracks that will shift and change and transform and take you to unexpected places, expounding on their emotional content the further they go. IMPORTANT: This is something to behold in awe and wonder. It is an incredible thing for an artist (whether a poet, writer, filmmaker, musician) to take an idea or theme and expand on it so thoroughly and continuously, as in an unrelenting stream-of-consciousness that causes each added, continuation and idea to become a new revelation that each previous idea seems to add to the power of a now massive thought which has unfolded with the power of a domino effect. There is an overwhelming nature and emotional depth that can be built up and experienced through change of pace, change of direction, and change of methods and ideas within the same song, track or album.
- (C). PROFUNDITY These albums will all have a certain profundity to them. They are either particularly powerful instrumentally, particularly powerful vocally, or both. By powerful or profound, I specifically mean "the degree and depth with which a musical expression affects one personally." Furthermore, it is characterized by: "the intensity of force or beauty as expressed from the artist vocally and/or instrumentally". IMPORTANT: You should constantly be attempting to experience the power/profundity in the music. The most tremendous, thunderous force is a thing of great power or profundity. The most tremendous, breathtaking beauty is a thing of great power and profundity. Either one could be considered equally desirable. You should look for each throughout these albums. A famous example of masterful power or profundity as expressed through tremendous force could be the first movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony. A famous example of masterful power or profoundity as expressed through tremendous beauty could be the final movement chorale, "Ode To Joy", from Beethoven's 9th Symphony. If you haven't heard either of those examples by Beethoven, please find them on the internet or elsewhere, and listen to them so you get where I am coming from. It is especially vital you understand this.
- 7. YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO EACH AND EVERY ALBUM ON A GREAT SYSTEM AS MANY TIMES AS POSSIBLE.
- Listening to them on crappy systems or off low budget computer speakers is really a degrade to the quality of musical works you are encountering. I would never recommend listening to them this way, but if you must, I would only recommend doing so after you've reached a point where you thoroughly enjoy the album. Otherwise you are liable to ruin the experience beforehand and create an unnecessary hurdle in your road towards enjoying the album more. You should not only listen to them on a great system, you should enhance the listening experience at every opportunity by putting it at the correct settings and a loud, powerful volume. You should get as close as possible to feeling as if the artist is close to you without having it at a volume that is so loud it hurts your eardrums. You should also make sure you listen to the best version possible, such as those on SACD, the remastered version, or vinyl--whichever offers the highest quality and is the most user friendly for you (for instance, not everyone can play vinyl). If you are uncertain about the best versions, try to go to a place that offers free test listening before purchasing, so you can assess the quality of sound. Additionally, those albums that haven't been remastered and/or exhibit underwhelming punch in their recording, should be listened to extra loud or closely so as to more accurately bring out the fullness and dexterity of the music. Some current examples of this are Spiderland, Astral Weeks, Velvet Underground & Nico, The Modern Dance and Parable of Arable Land. The current CD versions of these would benefit with an upgrade in sound quality, but until that happens I suggest you crank up the volume or listen to them loud and close on headphones.
TO BE CONTINUED...