Relearning to Listen -Or- What Ever Happened to the Album?

So I’ve been thinking bout this for awhile now but an encounter today was really what nudged me over into actually writing a post about it. I hate writing about what I think people should be doing or how they are fucking up. I don’t really know what the hell is going on either, I’m just observant and malcontent. Having said that, the strangeness of the encounter left me feeling weird, frustrated and worried. I was trying to have a short conversation with a woman who we are hiring to do some work inside our house. I realized once the “conversation” was over that she had literally heard 0.000000% of what I had said. We all know about those people who do not listen<em they are just talking and then waiting to talk. My mom does this. I do too sometimes but am working on it. The last few weeks I’ve been thinking about how much of a real skill listening is. And how bad most people are at it. Everyone wants to be heard. They are dying for someone to connect with, for someone to care about their shit. That is partially the essence of our humanity.
There is power in listening. When you listen close enough you can almost hear people’s thoughts. They tell you so much with their face, voice, words, body. Teaching kids to truly listen and harness the power that comes with it is handing them a special tool that not everyone possesses.
Unfortunately, being “a good listener” in our current culture really means following orders or directions. And we all know that’s bullshit. Unless of course it is from us. Cause parents authoritarianism is totally exempt from my education industrial complex derision. Naturally.
On a different but related tangent I really like to listen to albums. Don’t get me wrong, I put on some pandora when we have company over or are engaging in a raging family dance party. But really my heart is with The Album. When I put on an album, especially like as an event, when the listening is all I’m doing, no dishes, no driving, nothing but laying there and listening its like the band telling you all its secrets. Its a wonderful way to practice real listening. It’s like stepping into someone’s mind, taking in their vision- one played out through a collection of songs and artwork or whatever is on the cover of the album. I actually boycott singles. But hey- so did Zeppelin. I mean does listening to the song Money by itself slammed against some other unrelated songs treat you the same way as if you quietly took in the whole of Dark Side of the Moon? No. I mean the things you hear in albums when you are truly listening to them are incredible. The crosstalk between band members in the background, the inhale exhale of vocalists, the real emotion in a voice, a tiny misstep in timing that tells you that humans are playing the music- somehow making it even more beautiful. We hear music constantly but i feel like we rarely listen to it. When I really listen to music I feel like I know those people. After all they just laid it out there- hopefully everything they got- for us. It’s like reading a great book. When you give it your full attention it can become part of you. And maybe people can too…
So in a nutshell I am a (probably) one woman movement to revive the art form of the album and release music listeners from the dreaded purgatory that is iTunes single song purchases. And slow down and really listen to what people are saying (fing revolutionary, I know). Aaaaaaaand teach kids about these things. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand because I can’t resist a good list here are a few cool things I’ve heard lately really listening to some of my albums. Please forgive my problem with italics.

1. The incredible sad beautiful tuning on Stephen Stills guitar on the Buffalo Springfield songFor What It’s Worth.

2.”and now I will proceed to untangle the entire area” muttered stonily from David Crosby right as Almost Cut My Hair starts on Crosby Stills Nash and Youngs deja vu album.

3. The airplane noise and comments made by my boyfriend Robert Plant between Boogie With Stu and Black Country Woman on Zeppelins Physical Graffiti, easy to miss.

4. The tender manly soulful rad texture of Paul Rodgers voice in the early years on the Free album Fire and Water.

Happy listening! I mean listening.

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Cut the Bullshit

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Before I was a parent I was both a less patient person and a more patient person. I was less patient with things not being the way I wanted them or had imagined them to be. I was more patient with other people. I’m not sure what happened but pretty much as soon as I brought The Viking Princess, my daughter, home from the hospital I stopped having ANY tolerance for other people’s bullshit.
I think there’s something in the urgency of daily needs when you have kids that allows no time for the decadence/narcissism/martyrdom of anyone else. I just don’t care. I never really did actually but I was able to at least be polite about it. Now not as much.
Maybe it’s an evolutionary adaptation. You need to be able to withstand some pretty gnarly manipulation by your kids so they don’t grow up to be assholes. I can spot instantly when someone is trying to manipulate me, guilt me, or coerce me. In kids it’s part of learning how to deal with other people. In adults it’s embarrassing.
Its actually pretty awesome. Having a family makes you think about and wrestle everyday with what is actually important and necessary. It releases you from caring about stupid things. It excuses you from giving a shit about reality tv, or your acquaintances lame Facebook posts, or what everyone else is doing. It galvanizes what you believe and how you wanna live because you have to impart that to someone else now.
And you know what? Not giving a rats ass about anyone else and being committed to your vision is what rock and roll is, in its very essence.

“Rock ‘n’ roll is an attitude, it’s not a musical form of a strict sort. It’s a way of doing things, of approaching things. Writing can be rock ‘n’ roll, or a movie can be rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a way of living your life.”

― Lester Bangs