Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Music for the Hard of Hearing

I spend enough time in front of a computer to enjoy the easy access to alternative music available on the internet.  Since first logging in to Whole Wheat Radio 10 years ago,  my daily computer chores and amusements have usually been accompanied by music less likely to be heard.  These days my appreciation for that music focuses on the sound and feel more than the lyrics.  Even with good speakers and adequate volume my degraded ears cannot make out the words.  Headphones work well enough but I don't like being tethered so mostly I just enjoy what I can hear.  I can always look up the lyrics if something strikes me.

Paying minimal attention to what the songwriter is saying has led me to understand more what I value in music.  I like lively rhythm, female vocals, the interplay of instruments, violins, pianos and banjos.  More than anything I experience the sounds coming out of my speakers as a rich texture and interplay of instruments and voices.  As I write, Folk Alley--my source of choice--is playing "Man in the Moon by The Full English.  It's English traditional with a lilting female vocal backed with a complementary harmony, a viola (I think) and other stringed instruments.  It's livelier than a minuet but has some of the same precision.  Twenty minutes later Roseanne Cash is singing "A Feather's Not A Bird", a haunting ballad with a with hard-edged vocal and sharp electric guitar.  I can't make out the lyrics on either song but what I can hear sounds fine.

Having difficulty making out lyrics is not entirely new.  Even in my youth I often relied on lyric sheets that accompanied most albums.  If no lyrics were available, repeated attentive listens let me figure them out.  That's one reason I was drawn to singer songwriters like Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, and Kate and Anna McGarrigle--their words and stories were usually clearly stated.  But these days I must listen closely if I want to understand the meaning behind the music.  I don't pay that much attention, especially if I'm working so some of the music zips by without notice.

That occurs less on Folk Alley where much of he music will command my attention (like Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell singing "That's All It Took").  I tried Radio Paradise as a pop-rock alternative but while the playlist is far more diverse than Folk Alley much of the music zips by without notice. It's a little too popular at times and much of it doesn't register until I see it on the playlist.  I am even less likely to pick up lyrics if I'm not even noticing the music.  It's an occasional flirtation but Folk Alley is my radio home these days.

Not hearing lyrics means I miss an important part of the song.  Definitely a loss but one than I can accept for accompaniment to working on a computer.  CD's and records--I've purchased CD's of artists introduced via internet--give me plenty of opportunity to enjoy both melody and lyrics.

Call it the inevitable consequences of aging. I'm just happy to be alive and enjoying music



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