Lately, after a prolonged period of being entirely office-based, I’ve been working from home again. Not all the time, but maybe one or two days a week. It’s an arrangement that works well; I’m lucky enough to work for a company where homeworking is absolutely fine, and I’m unlucky enough to sometimes have bad days where my sleep has gone walkabout, or my anxiety levels have got so high that I’m a bit fall-y down-y, so the odd day at home works well.
And while I’m working, I tend to have Spotify running, just because I have always, always worked with music. My GCSEs were soundtracked entirely by Doves. Tom McRae single-handedly got me through my A Levels. My MA dissertation was written whilst listening to Rilo Kiley. But this latest bout of homeworking has made me realise something kind of strange. I’ve forgotten how to listen to music.
I don’t mean I’ve forgotten in some literal or technical sense; my ears still work, and I’ve never been one who sits there going “oh my! Just listen to that fabulous timpani and syncopated rhythm!”. I just mean that I seem to have lost my musical attention span, and I can’t just fix on an album and sit down and listen my way through it like I used to.
Part of it, undoubtedly, will have something to do with the miseries. I was always deeply, borderline-psychotically in love with music when I was younger, but once the miseries hit it became yet another thing that I didn’t really give a shit about anymore.
But it’s not all the fault of the miseries, though. In the words of every history essay I ever wrote, a number of factors have contributed. I’ve moved around a hell of a lot in the past decade, and it just hasn’t been practical to take my entire CD collection with me, so I’ve become more reliant on things like iPods, and Spotify. Which definitely changed my listening habits.
I was always a fan of the mixtape. Somewhere in my parents’ loft is a box full of all my old tapes, of which there are many because I made two each month (one from radio, one from CDs). And obviously, iTunes and iPods made it ever simpler to make mixes, so I just got used to listening to bands in tiny little individual bursts. I forgot how to listen to albums, because why would you want to listen to one band making slightly different noises when you could listen to lots of different bands making noises?
And then Spotify came along, and convinced me that I didn’t really need to move any of my CD collection round with me at all, because I could access it all online. Except I can’t, because my brain doesn’t work like that. I used to scan the shelves until I saw something that I wanted to listen to, but you can’t do that with Spotify. You can’t just SCAN THE INTERNET until you pick an album; you’ll never be able to stop scanning. So Spotify just became an extension of mixtape land, as it turned out that when faced with all the choice in the world I became incapable of making any choice at all.
And I don’t think I’m particularly happy about this. I miss just sitting down and putting an album on and reading a book and not having everything skipping about all over the place. So once we’ve moved, I’m going to bring back the CD collection, and I’m going to start listening to it. After all, I won’t be going anywhere for a very long time once I’ve started paying that stupid mortgage, so I may as wall make sure I’ve got a decent soundtrack.