Bookshelf Feedback

Some feedback on my Today’s Sound review from loyal Italian reader, Beppe Colli (editor of Clouds and Clocks)

“Just a couple observations, with absolutely no trace of critical ambition or profundity.

re: ‘What exactly happened in the world that would prevent a comparable range of artists being covered today, not just in a single book, but in a single music magazine?

“Dunno. But it seems to me that back then a lot more people listened to a more diverse diet of music, as if it was the normal thing to do. In fact, it was the opposite behaviour that needed an explanation. People were not ‘supposed’ to listen to one thing only.

“These days, I receive letters from people who find my webzine while doing a Google search for, say, Phish, and then ask me ‘How come you cover so and so, since you like so and so?’ I find this to be especially true after punk (this is also true of a lot of colleagues who are not that much younger than me, but who started really listening to music at a later age than me).

re: ‘The pop universe was a much smaller place in 1973–an almost unfathomably smaller place.’

“Where did you get the idea that it was much smaller? I’m not really sure I get your meaning here. Do you mean, fewer albums? Less variety? Could you please clarify this?”

[Later Beppe wrote back] “If by ‘smaller’ you mean the amount of copies sold per year, you are obviously right. This, in my opinion, also explains this ‘variety’ phenomenon, since–compared to now–those were ‘self-selected’ audiences, people who actively seeked what was new and stimulating. As a rule, people like those do not make distinctions by ‘genre,’ only by ‘quality.'”

Not sure how I feel about this comment: “back then a lot more people listened to a more diverse diet of music.” I don’t know. I’ve met people in the last several years, half my age, who listen to a much greater variety of genres probably than I did at their age. And yet, it seems like the landscape overall in the seventies (which is when I grew up) was somewhat richer in terms of its diversity–at least on the radio, which still mattered. Things are more compartmentalized now in the way music is marketed and so forth (I think that’s closer to what I was saying originally), but I think people who are heavily into music, old and young, continue to bounce around those compartments, the way they always have.

I think by “smaller” I was really referring to the amount of music released and available now as opposed to 30 years ago, but the point I was trying to make was that, although this is inarguably true, the position of music in the world 30 years ago was probably greater, not smaller. There’s way more music available now, but also a million other entertainments to compete with music, too. But by suggesting that music doesn’t occupy as important a place in the culture, I don’t believe it follows that the way individuals continue to respond to music is any less meaningful than it ever was.


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