The big feature of Spotify that I can’t work out whether I love or despise is the Orwellian ticker telling you what all your friends have been listening to:
‘X listened to Tellin’ Stories by The Charlatans’
‘X listened to Exo-Politics by Muse’
‘X listened to Baby By Me by 50 Cent’
‘X listened to The Moose Song by Aaron Vande Wege’
‘X listened to Baby Come Home by The Scissor Sisters’
‘X listened to MIA by Emmy The Great’
‘X listened to Whistle by Can You Blow My’
‘X listened to Gorecki by Lamb’
‘X listened to If This Is It – 2006 Digital Remaster by Huey Lewis and the News’
‘X listened to Ex-Ravers by Zach Hill’
‘X listened to The House That Heaven Built by Japandroids’
‘X listened to It Wasn’t Me by Shaggy’
A diverse selection of songs, the majority of which I do not know; compiled mainly from people I haven’t seen in years, but am still inextricably connected to through facebook. Facebook induces a weird schizophrenia where I feel like I know so many people, and what they are interested in, very well; but I can’t have talked to many of them for more than a few minutes in real life. It’s like having surplus of imaginary friends on tap…
I would be interested in listening to some of the song selections to work out what they are like (particularly The Moose Song by Aaron Vande Wege) but the difficulty is: that if I do listen, then that person might notice that I’m listening to what they have been listening to. In which case, I either look like a musical parasite, or worse, that person becomes conscious they are broadcasting, affecting what they decide to listen to. Rather than discovering new things through people’s playlists, the opposite happens, this weird tension develops that means I find myself actively shying away from listening to what other people are listening to.
It is just too awkward when you that see someone is listening to the same song/album as you at the same time; producing a similar sensation to when someone catches you staring at them in the street. I also fret as to whether my song choices are dictated by what I want people to know I listen to, rather than what I actually want to listen to at any given moment.
I might have to disable the function entirely as it inflames my most twattish, paranoid instincts that I’d rather remain unconscious of.
One feature of Spotify that I have been getting into that is less psychologically daunting, is Artist Radio. You pick an artist/album that you are fond of and Spotify fishes out a randomized playlist of songs by associated artists, leading you into listening to things that you likely would never have encountered on your own. This has been particularly useful for attempting to get into modern classical/instrumental music (about which I am entirely ignorant). This was not driven by a desire to be more highbrow, but chiefly because I cannot concentrate on work at all if music has lyrics.
Artist Radio endeared itself to me instantly as the very first song it picked out was Oraison by Olivier Messiaen.
I found the song completely transfixing and densely sad. It is difficult to guess when it was written on first listen, it seems like it could be from last year or a century ago. It is played on an instrument that sounds like it is from the future. A future that is going to be sad in ways we can’t yet fathom.
Subsequent investigation revealed that it was one of the first pieces of electronic music.
It was produced by Messiaen for an instrument called the Ondes Martenot and premiered at the 1937 Paris World Fair. A precursor to the theremin (the Ondes Martenot was also used copiously on Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack to There Will Be Blood; a score that, I have previously established, gives my tear glands a stiffy).
Like the theremin, the Ondes Martenot was later used to create the incidental music for a variety of trashy sci-fi shows/films of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. It adds to the sadness of the thing that the first piece of music written for this instrument is so moving and dignified, before it quickly becomes taken advantage of to create a campy, trashy effect.
The piece was subsequently re-worked using more traditional instrumentation for a longer suite called Quartet for the End of Time. During WW2 Messiaen was taken to a P.O.W. camp. It was there that he composed the Quartet after receiving a pencil and some paper from a sympathetic guard. The story of the piece’s first performance (from Wikipedia) is absolutely sensational and is surely ripe for a schmaltzy director to adapt it:
“The completed quartet was premiered in Stalag VIII-A in Görlitz, Germany outdoors in the rain on January 15, 1941, with old, broken instruments before an audience of about four hundred fellow prisoners of war and prison guards. Messiaen later recalled: “Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension.”
A powerful tale showing the strength of an individual able to create something beautiful and timeless whilst trapped somewhere that was summoned into being through mankind’s most destructive, hateful instincts. To quote RiRi, he “found love in a hopeless place.”
Good job they didn’t have smartphones back then. Our generation is a petty shower of shits who are only capable of watching gigs through screens. Recording it only to boast to others; then never watching the video again.
This entire generation is entirely self-obsessed; social-networking has made every action and cultural choice into a sculpted aspect of the image we want to present to others.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to spend the next couple of hours looking at the Spotify ticker to see if anyone listens to Oraison. That way I will get vindication of what a powerfully influential individual with great taste I am. I hope one of my imaginary friends ‘likes’ this post.