March 29, 2019

Changing Perspective: Listening With Fresh Ears


What was that ? A almost buried guitar part. There....an intricate rhythm snippet on some sort of percussion instrument. Hold on...you mean there were singers way in the background on that song I've heard hundreds of times? 

 A few months ago the stereo amplifier that I use to listen to music started to cause problems. After 27 years of faithful service I shouldn't be surprised. Even so, I became upset when sounds coming out of the right speaker had a crackle or hiss that didn't belong there. Things started sounding a bit muddy.

I tried different wires. I changed which input switch was responsible for my musical entertainment. Adjusting the equalizer or decreasing the treble setting didn't do it. Thinking that the WiFi wasn't up to snuff I tried rebooting everything or listening at times of the day when everyone in our neighborhood wasn't watching television. I even blamed Spotify, though on my phone the uninvited noises were absent.

After a week or two, I accepted reality: my old Panasonic amplifier needed to be replaced. Product reviews, searches on Amazon and Best Buy, and a quick check on Ebay, gave me several options. I picked one, had it sent to me and swapped out the failing one for the new version.

Within moments, I marveled at what had just happened. Suddenly, I could hear things that had been hidden in my favorite music for years. Even with songs I have enjoyed forever I was hearing all sorts of new things for the first time. I discovered a complexity of sounds and structure that had been buried by a poor amplifier.

Cymbals, subtle guitar parts, a violin that had avoided my detection completely, even background vocals I had never noticed, became beautifully alive. A classical piece displayed new depth and power. Vocals from France, rhythmic wonders from Africa, even Paul Simon music from the 70's revealed everything the artists had wanted me to hear when the music was recorded. It was akin to listening to rock music on AM radio and then suddenly discovering FM, or going from 45s to CDs.

Of course, I also confirmed that there is a lot of poorly produced music out there. Louie, Louie by the Kingsmen still sounds horrible. Diana Krall's voice is starting to show its age. Most of the hair band music from the 80's is just noise, no matter how much clearer it is. The lyrics of a lot of the 90's stuff are seriously not for children's ears

Even so, I find myself listening for hours a day to all sorts of music, some familiar, but mostly brand new. Spotify is now my best friend. Maybe I can't listen to all 30 million songs they claim to have, but I am going to make a dent, so help me!

As all that beauty, power, and artistry filled my head (and living room), so did an important insight: growth can come from changing one's perspective. Expanding our world and all its wonders can come from listening with fresh ears, seeing with newly opened eyes, smelling and tasting with gusto.

A change in how I experienced something as commonplace as music from a stereo opened up a new world, one that I thought I knew well. But, I didn't know how much was hidden until I found a new way to hear. 

Life can easily fall into a rut. We become comfortable and make assumptions about our options. A choice we have made might be the best one for us. But, without entertaining other approaches or solutions, we will never know.


19 comments:

  1. Welcome back to the blogosphere, and we'll eagerly be following your new path . . . but it does seem, with all the reading and music and everything else, that you'll be as busy as ever!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Busy, yes, but a good busy. Less pressure to "produce."

      Delete
  2. Glad you're back to the blog! We have a sonos and LOVE it. The quality of sound is amazing from one little box. As for music in general... have you seen Bohemian Rhapsody? We saw it in the theater and as soon as I could buy it for home viewing I did. I am hooked on that movie! Mind you, I was never a huuuge fan of Queen but, I am now! If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it!
    Oh...and a big thank you for your review of my book. It's out there now! I still can't believe it.
    b

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bohemian Rhapsody was amazing. Like you, I wasn't a big Queen fan, but the movie made me one. In fact, Betty and I saw a Queen tribute band a few weeks ago. My hearing is slowly returning!

      Delete
  3. Hi Bob! Glad you are able to experience your music with "fresh ears!" Your post and comment reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Marcel Proust, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." Enjoy! ~Kathy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Travel sometimes occurs between the ears and eyes...it doesn't always require going great distances, just being open to something new.

      Delete
  4. Just read this post and your last one about coming back to the blog and your new outlook on life. In our culture of do, do more, do better, how refreshing to say I've done enough. As Diane Lane said to Secretariat in the movie, "I've run my race. Now you run yours."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I liked that movie, but don't remember the line. It fits well. I may no longer be interested in racing, but a steady trot still feels good.

      Delete
  5. I dumped all my CDs a few years ago and have relied exclusively on streaming ever since.

    Advantage: Anything I want to hear is a couple of clicks away -- or I tell Alexa to play it! Plus I'm introduced to new, younger artists who are somehow algorithmically related to my selections. Lots of pleasant surprises there.

    Disadvantage: Without the pleasure of thumbing through my CD cases, I've neglected lots of music that I used to love.

    To fix this, I'm making an effort to go through the library of 25,000 songs I uploaded to Amazon and Apple as backup. Hearing something I haven't listened to in 10 or more years can be a thrill -- or a reality check. In either case, it brings back memories. There's nothing like music!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still have nearly 500 CDs that were burned onto an Ipod that sits neglected, but still functioning, in the living room. If the Internet fails, I have a backup for my music!

      I used to love old LP covers and the liner notes, all the information on the back. Some of those covers were really artwork.

      Delete
    2. Even though I have been deaf for more than 30 years now, I still have my long playing record collection of mainly the folk artists. I, like you, enjoy pulling them out once in a while just to hold them and to read the covers. It brings back many pleasant memories. I'm not generally a hoarder, if I were my barn would be full of old computers, but I will probably hang on to these albums until my last breath :)

      Delete
    3. RJ- I have a dear friend who lost her hearing later in life. She purchased a set of great speakers. She sits in a small room with her albums and feels the beat against her skin. She says she can "hear" her favorite songs as the beat hits her. Just a thought.

      Delete
  6. Album covers have become collectibles. Vinyl is making a comeback though I wonder why. Yes, a good stereo, new album, and decent turntable sounds fuller than a digital version.

    But, an LP only holds 15-17 minutes of music per side. Scratches and hiss happen no matter how careful you are.

    I will stick with streaming for my music but wouldn't mind a piece of wall art that had covers like Dark Side of The Moon. Great memories.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm a fan of streaming music, although I grant that my speakers aren't all they could be since it's just me and Alexa in the kitchen most days. Ha! DH is a stereo "freak" (I say that kindly) and has over 1500 CDs. When we finished off our basement a couple years ago, he built a wall of shallow shelving to store them. Better than the living room, I say. :-) His latest thing is trying to find a reasonable way to get them all digitized. Most options are pricey, but he's going to a stereo trade show soon looking for some new idea he saw online. I'm perfectly happy with my iTunes, a little Bose mini and Bluetooth from my phone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe your husband should consider CD jukeboxes. In a unit not much bigger than an amplifier, up to 300 CDs are stored and accessible just like an old fashioned jukebox.

      I had 2 of them at one point. They worked well and saved a tremendous amount of space and effort to hear all that music.

      Delete
  8. My husband pulled out our albums several months ago. He bought a turn table, new amp and amazing speakers. That is what we listen to now. Not snippets of work, but the entire piece. Such great work. We, like you, enjoy the new take on life and living through our music.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everything old is new again! The sound from vinyl is much warmer and fuller than what is available on CDs or streaming. I will admit, however, that the digital remixing of older music reveals so much that the original recordings missed.

      Delete
  9. I have the good fortune of living with an audiophile. Rob designs and builds audio speakers, and he has a huge digital collection of music (8 terabytes) that he has backed up on both dedicated hard drives and also on CDs (all carefully indexed). Our tastes in music are quite similar. Rob has set up the stereo system in the living room to draw from his computer downstairs, using his tablet to select playlists. Nevertheless, when I am listening by myself, I mostly play my own collection of CDs. I like to play each album through, rather than listening to single songs.

    Jude

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have come to rely on some of Spotify's playlists as a way of exposing myself to new artists, though I do gravitate back to favorites often.

      8 terabytes is a lot of music! And, like you, I usually prefer an entire album by an artist. It is the only way to really judge the overall appeal.

      Delete

Inappropriate comments will be deleted