For the better part of a month now I have been without the usual staple of music that has filled my life for the better part of fifteen years.
At about the age of twelve I bought a sony walkman, a mid-to-high grade tape player (for those of you my not be quite as old as me. music – and film for that matter - as we know it today used to get recorded onto magnetic tape) It was beautiful; slim, encased in metal and requiring only one battery. It’s feature function, which to this day I still do not understand, was that upon pressing ffw (that’s fast forward for the younger of you) it would magically skip to the next track. From there I was hooked, I needed music in my life as much as possible. Not only because I was gingerly placing my first steps into discovering music for myself – beyond following the recommendations of friends – but because with the music up loud the outside world could not bother me i.e. I couldn’t hear the obligatory school bully taunts.
I sold out my walkman for a CD player, my CD player for an MP3-CD compatible player and finally, around about the millennium I had enough of my own money to buy a fully fledged MP3 player. Three hundred pounds bought me a meagre 6Gb of storage inside the plastic-brick that was an Archos Jukebox 6000. I’d love to tell you that I have nothing but fond memories of this little device but that particular nostalgia is not so rose tinted. For all its capabilities I plugged that devilbox into charge one day and when I returned the plastic housing was so overheated it was melted and bubbling like the lake of fire itself, and yes you’ve guessed it, three weeks outside the warranty bracket.
|Sony Walkman - 'The good'|
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really trust apple products in their first few iterations but by this point the ipod was on its fourth or fifth generation and was looming over the market place like a great white monolith, the antithesis of Arthur C. Clarke’s evolutionary kick-starter, and so I bought in and have never really looked back.
I have owned only two ipods, upgrading to a stately 80Gb several years ago, and for the better part of a decade they have served me well. My clearly Braun inspired black music box has travelled Europe with me and survived the inevitable ipod battery death/replacement ritual, it had been my faithful companion up until about a month ago.
|Archos Jukebox - 'The bad'|
Upon returning from work I fished my real-world distracter from my pocket to hear a faint little rattle. A rattle! Ipod’s shouldn’t rattle! After replacing the battery and seeing how ludicrously tight everything is crammed in there I knew unequivocally that there was no space for a rattle. So taking the battery replacement tools and once again prying open the back I was surprised to find a tiny electronic component shoot out to meet me. The ipod itself was still playing and I had no idea what this piece did.
It would seem that where the human brain can remain intact without oxygen for approximately eight minutes, and ipod can survive without a seemingly useless part for about a week.
And so for about three weeks now I have been without my daily dose of music as I to and fro from work. This has afforded me the chance to catch up on a lot of reading, (which after finding that is can get a free version of the guardian sent to my kindle on a daily basis has made the daily commute less mundane) but the lack of music has now started to seep in.
I had never really contemplated a time where music would not be a relevant feature in my life, or worse an occurrence whereby I would not have the capacity for the sheer aural elation that comes from music which really digs into the heart of you and – possibly against your will – make you truly feel. To those readers with even the slightest of minor hearing inadequacies you have my utmost sympathy and, for the present, empathy too.
Everyday is spent with a dozen reminiscences of old songs, albums I’ve begun to miss hearing and the experiences that are so dutifully tied to the music I love that I feel I’m losing memories by not listening. Of course all that music resides happily on my laptop, waiting to be accessed when I arrive home, but my hour to and from work was my time to be alone with music, to listen to it tell me the story of other peoples lives.
Like a hardwired circuit, from player through headphones, eardrums triggering synapses snapping to brain, and then onwards from brain to a new place where the world around me shifts ever so out of reality. This all sounds a little ethereal, almost mystical (a sense to which I do not normally apply myself) but I believe anyone who has ever been touched by music has had the experience of walking through a seemingly ordinary and familiar location to which, on any other day, passing through would be a minor occurrence. But by adding a score, a soundtrack catered to and created by you that place changes to somewhere so much more cinematic. To a scene in which you are a key player, to a moment where your life and the surrounding world revolves around a new set of rules and the unknown seems ever more present.
Recently I wrote about my experiences as a psychosomatic-spy while taking part in a piece of interactive art, well I had forgotten that everyday I have those experiences through music, everyday I have the chance to pretend that even my tiresome walk to work is a thrilling mystery tour. Each day I can sculpt the ordinary world into a slightly more exciting place with the simple addition of a soundtrack, give it a try because someday your ability to do so could be snatched away from you and promise me it’s a hard thing to go without.