Monday, March 24, 2014

The Project is dead! Long live the Project!


The Great Listening Project™
July 15th, 2006 - July 15th, 2013

When we last spoke I was nearing the end of the Great Listening Project™. As you can see above, the Project ended exactly seven years after it started. Wow. Perhaps some day I will write some grand sweeping thoughts about the entire experience, but that day is not today. However, in order to get to the purpose of today's musings I must reflect a bit on how the Project changed me in an unexpected way. To wit, the Project changed my relationship with listening to music. (Come again Jubb?) One of the reasons for starting the Project was to break my listening habits. It was started at a time when I was commuting to work, and my car stereo was firmly locked on Morphine, Gnarls Barkley, and Kings of Convenience. All solid choices, but the scope of it makes me no different from an aging young rocker clinging to Bon Jovi with a soft spot for NKOTB. I take pride in the depth and breadth of the variety of music I listen to, and that just wasn't cutting it. Not only did the Project force me to re-evaluate all of the music I own, but it also got me interested in the idea of listening within parameters, which finally brings us to the point of this post.

For the month of February I only listened to Black Artists and Pop Records.

Black Artists should be fairly obvious, February being Black History Month and all, as for Pop Records, Harry & I decided to participate in the RPM Challenge (the idea being to record an entire album in the month of February) and we decided to make a Pop Record, the results of which can be found here. So, here are some of my findings.

In the category of "Here we have an entire country whose music I had no I idea that I loved:" Mali. Wow. Tinariwen, the Touré-Raichel Collective, Salif Keita, ... I can't express how much I love this music. I've done some minor exploration of African Music in general before this last month, but I was continually struck by the fact that I would be listening to something, wonder where it was from, and then discover that it was from Mali. It was a real "the more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know" moment for me.

In the category of "Why the fuck haven't I been listening to this music all along!?:" Allen Toussaint, Nina Simone, Frank Ocean. Southern Nights stuck in my head for days, swimming in the beauty of Ocean's sounds, and Nina, dear lord Nina hits in all the right places. There's something that I love about the artistic expression of African-American suffering, a grace, a grittiness, strength. James Baldwin, Gil Scott-Heron, Langston Hughes, Charles Mingus. These are artists that inexplicably resonate with me, and I'm very happy to finally be adding Ms. Simone to that list.

In the category of "Damn Nostalgia, how you doin'?:" early 90s hip-hop. Oh, that smooth hip-hop/jazz fusion and those sweet, sweet voices. Digable Planets, Arrested Development, Tribe, De La,... yes please! I had forgotten how much I loved and still really enjoy that music.

In the category of "What the Fuck? Am I seriously enjoying this?:" Giorgio Moroder. I blame Harry.

And the the greatest surprise of all, was Pop Music in general. I listen to so much Experimental Music (heck, I've got Dockstader & Myers on right now) that I forget how satisfying good Pop Music can be. I manage to isolate myself from being bombarded with too much mainstream music, so I'm afforded the opportunity to appreciate it on my own terms, but that also means that I don't often seek it out. I'm glad that I did. And this love of Pop Music has continued post-February; lately I've been hooked, HOOKED on Pharrell Williams' disc. Have you heard "Lost Queen?" Wow. So. Good.

These self-imposed listening restrictions helped be gain a deeper appreciation of some music that I might have otherwise overlooked. The pleasure in listening to a wide variety of music is actually LISTENING to the music. I said earlier that the Project changed my relationship with listening to music, and this is a small part of that. By creating different, focused restrictions I can explore music in a whole new way. Any suggestions?