I find it very difficult to communicate to other people why I like music as much as I do. But the fact is that it is my great passion and over the years I have worked out my way to enjoy it to the maximum. The key element for me was finding the perfect balance between exploration and exploitation. This article is a brief description of a typical life cycle of a music peace in my musical universe. I hope that by learning it, you can get an idea of what music means to me and what it has to do with a dwarf miner.
Mining for gems is a very good analogy to how I work with music. Most of the time that I spent on this hobby is devoted to research, which is the most basic, sometimes tedious but also most important activity. Without research, there would be no ‘material’ to work with and soon the flame of passion would start to dwindle. My sonic ecosystem needs to be fed with fresh material and there is no easy way of getting it.
Researching is difficult because I always have to reinvent it. Like in the recently popular term ‘informational bubble’, if I stick to the same sources of information for too long, I will not be truly creative in terms of finding new exciting bands, albums and extending my horizons. So of course I have my favorite places where I look for new music, but I know I cannot limit myself to them otherwise my preferences will become a plain copy of someone else’s. In many ways, I think crafting you musical taste is as creative and demanding as creating music itself.
Therefore I spend most of my spare time on looking for and listening to new stuff. And most often, as you probably imagine, I’m not very thrilled about what I hear. Only about 1 out of 10 albums I listen to eventually stay with me. Sometimes it takes just couple of minutes, sometimes three or four listens before I know how I feel about them. The decision is always binary: gem or not a gem. In most cases it is not very difficult to tell them apart. But when it does, I’m using a scoring protocol. Each track of an album (or section of a long track) gets a score between 0 and 10 where 0 means total rubbish and 10 – a masterpiece. Scores are then averaged over entire album. If the final result if greater or equal to 7.5, I have found a new gem.
You might already noticed that my evaluation is focused on entire albums. Indeed, for me an album is the basic unit and I treat it as a whole, as a complete work. If there are two or three brilliant tracks on a ten-track album, it will not lay my ears on it for too long. I think this is another manifestation of my deep love for music, the fact that I look for full immersion into the world created by composer and musicians. This is something that cannot be done in few short minutes, at least not to the extent I anticipate.
But why going through all this trouble, why is it so important to distinguish great albums from the ones that are only good? Because great albums eventually become part of my collection, and my collection is the center element of my sonic universe. My subjective feeling about the quality of music, the fact that I consider it exceptional or not is the only factor that decides whether an album will become part of it or not. I never buy albums to complete discography of an artist, even if I lack only one piece but it doesn’t meet my standards, I will not buy it. In my world, including an album in my collection is greatest acknowledgement of an artist and he’s creation.
The physical aspect of this process, the fact that I own over three hundred CDs, many of them quite rare and imported from furthest reaches of the Earth is not that important. Of course I am fond of them and I like the fact that I can look at them, play them and show them to my family and friends. But most of all, my CD collection is something that introduces order to my musical journey, a definite milestone in album’s life cycle that allows me to close one chapter and start another. When I decide to add a recording to my collection, I buy it and I listen to it for some time (first three listens are recorded in my private database) but when the excitement fades I know I have to move on and look for new inspiration. But it also stays with me and becomes a record, a journal of my ongoing adventure with associated memories of times, people and places.
Of course it all works in cycles. At any given time I have more or fewer albums at different stages in the ‘pipeline’. Some albums are newly found and wait for their turn for initial listenings, others are already in the process of being listened to. Those that made it wait for being purchased, others are already purchased and are being delivered. There are some that are already on my shelf and wait for their first listen after purchase, which is a second very special moment on their journey. But the first and most exciting moment is always when I decide to add album to my collection. It’s like an injection of fresh air to my bloodstream. A confirmation that I’m still enjoying music and that great music is still being made somewhere.
All in all, I estimate that I spent about 75% of my time devoted to music on the exploration phase, that is the part when I red about music and listen to it before making decision about purchase. Only 25% is exploitation when I sit back and simply enjoy music I own. How does that compare to how other people do it? I’m very curious about that. My feeling is that most people spent much less time on research if any at all. But for me it is the essence of the whole venture and something that distinguishes true music enthusiasts from occasional listeners.