A quick book deserves at least a quick post. Damon Krukowski's brief Ways Of Hearing is the companion to the podcast of the same name which I should get around to hearing. But here's the thing: I don't like sitting still for podcasts. I'll sit and read, but for a podcast I need a commute or other ride and, for better and worse, I have none. If I could get my podcasts on paper, that would be just ducky.
As to the matter of the book ("Words, words, words."), it begins this way:
The first record I made was all analog. It wasn't a choice — that's just how it was done in the 80s. My friends and I lived in an all-analog world. There were no computers in our lives.
And it ends like this: (Spoilers! No, not really.)
...my aim has been to call attention to aspects of sound we may not always think about. You might say, I've been trying to highlight different parts of the noise around us.
And that's because it's my hope that by listening to a wider swath of noise, we might discover more about what is meaningful signal for each of us. And how we might best share those signals with one another.
Between all that is a discussion of how digital eliminates all that analog noise and strips much of the experience of living from the world. If you remember using an old phone, probably hung on the wall of your kitchen, you'll grok this easily. Recall how on that old phone you never wondered if someone was still on the line. You heard their dog's bark, music playing on their radio, a truck passing their open window, and maybe their breathing (especially if it was a late-night call was to your love).
Now switch to your iPhone or Android. None of that noise comes through because it was decided that we only want the signal. Noise was all filtered out such that at the slightest pause in conversation, we wonder, is anyone still there?
Noise is necessary. Noise is good. It's part of what appeals about records. It's why a handwritten note beats the hell out of an email. It's why we go out to dinner with friends. In the noise is humanity. The real world is analog noise much more than it is digital signal.
At that dinner party with friends, you're paying attention to the friend speaking to you. All the other conversations at the table and across the restaurant are noise. You've chosen to focus, to make this one person the signal in all that noise.
Then your wife, husband, daughter, or son, catches your eye. Their signal rises to the top of your attention, the rest becomes noise. That person you love leans in and says something low, a signal only for you, a joke the two of you share. You smile. More signal chosen amidst all the noise. Even when you turn to some other signal, the noise of love permeates your spectacular analog world.
That's the way I want to go about hearing.
Oh, and Krukowski's previous book The New Analog is perhaps even better. The guy is brilliant. Go get 'em.