Saturday, March 27, 2010

Driving Music

My friend Fojammi and I were lamenting the trend toward convenience over sound quality in music.

A couple of years ago I was certain 16 bit CDs would improve to 24bit. DVDs already do it. It’s sad to me that audio quality is better for prerecorded movies than it is for music.

I mix all my music to 24bit and dither it down to 16bit just in case. My friend, and partner in Delay Tactics, Walter mixes to surround sound. I think that’s a bit much considering the current listening climate.

My girlfriend Valerie is totally unapologetic about her preference for MP3s. I have to admit MP3s are great for rollerblading and listening in the car.

When we listen to music, it’s generally from a boom box on our porch. It’s an odd turn of events that when I blast music from a real stereo I’m by myself in the living room. It’s almost a religious experience for me, immersed and swimming through sound. It’s even better when that’s a shared experience though.

There are parties these days where you can watch a crowded dance floor and there’s no sound. Everyone’s dancing to their own MP3 player. There no shared rhythm and I don’t really see how there can be an honest sense of community.

People are a social species and we’re drifting toward isolating ourselves in our private dream worlds. It’s probably a symptom of the intolerance that’s so prevalent these days. It makes me feel lonely just thinking about it.

Music in the car is what I’m really thinking about right now. It can’t be a passive experience because motion is involved. Time and motion means dance, doesn’t it?

Occasionally I hear radio DJs talk about great driving music. They always go to the lowest common denominator: Radar Love. The elitist in me sighs.

Music doesn’t have to be driving to be great driving music. I mentioned driving in the Smoky Mountains in an earlier post along side a flock of geese. We were in sync to Peter Gabriel’s Wallflower. It’s a beautifully calm piece of music in spite of the fact that it’s about the torture/interrogation of political prisoners.

I also posted about driving with my buddy Theo when a new song by REO Speedwagon came on the radio. It was Roll with The Changes. Theo turned to me and said, “You know I always kind of liked these guys.” I never did until that. That has to be one of the best driving songs ever!

I was never much for classic rock. It wasn’t until I heard Whole Lotta Love on a friend’s P.A system cranked out “full blast” that I got Led Zepplin.

Speaking of full blast I used to have a Suzuki Samurai that I abused the Hell out of. That was a fun car! I put a power amp under the driver’s seat and my speakers filled the back seats entirely. It was a two passenger vehicle when I was done with it.

I used to go four-wheeling in brush that was way over our heads. We had no fear because we had a roll bar. David Bowie’s “Stay” from Station To Station is spectacular at full blast!

I’ll never forget my girlfriend Joanie’s involuntary laughter, half from fear and half from the pure joy of the roller coaster ride, as we four wheeled narrow, muddy roads high in the mountains of New Mexico. I still can’t believe we didn’t roll that thing in light of the fact they recalled Samurais for that very reason. We were listening to Balloon Man by Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians. It was a perfect sound track.

I think my favorite driving music experience of all was driving through the Arizona desert around three in the morning with Joanie, We were going 100 mile an hour and sharing a bottle of Wild Turkey. We thought we were flying through the stars. We were listening to Whole Lotta Love and Hendrix’s Are You Experienced?.

I was telling this story to my friend Rib Tip when he got a stern look on his face and asked me, “You know what they say about drinking and driving?” “No,” I answered.

“It’s a lot of fun!”


Tony Patti said...

When I think of the trend to convenient music, I remember that I never had a decent stereo my entire life. Without anything to compare modern mp3 sound to, how can I bemoan any loss of quality I've never known, except in brief, isolated moments listening to someone els's stereo. And there have been a few moments when I heard good sound on extremely expensive systems and I realized how good it could get. I just never had the knowledge to put together a system like that for myself.

One sound I always noticed and craved was the sound of old 78s. Even scratched up, they sound fantastic compared to reconstructions. Since I know my ears are unsophisticated, I wonder why I think so. When can I come over and listen to some Bix?

Doggie said...

Valerie and I recently got a new cartridge for our RCA Cobra 78 player. The tone arm even has little eyes. Come on over!

Dorothy said...

I remember a drive across Utah in the wee hours listening to The Blasters and eating apples. We took a 4 week trip out west in 88, from Columbus to the coastal highway of California. We had $500 a Coleman stove and sleeping bags. Best trip I ever had, even listening to my son's Metallica! I still have a soft spot for their Orion; it will always be the soundtrack for driving across Kansas for me. Both my guitar playing husbands have had awesome stereo equipment, and Led Zeppelin full blast is a thrill all of it's own, Misty Mountain Hop for me! Visiting family in SC, I will always associate with Duke Levine's Nobody's Home, an awesome album. I played it over and over just to remember the drive. Great blog entry!

Tony Patti said...

The music I remember driving to the most was Simple Minds driving down to Big Sur every weekend when I lived in California. New Gold Dream especially.

Dorothy said...

That is an awesome driving song Tony! They were a good band. You sound quite a bit like Mr Kerr vocally, I think.

Dominic said...

I really wish there were a website that allowed for music files over a certain length or size. one of the main reasons myspace sucked for psychotronics pieces was all the good ones were 9 to 17 minutes long. all totally improved jam. Excellent driving music. especially at night on the highway. you go places the road can't take you.

...Sharon said...

Kate Bush, Hounds of Love!

I heard it for the first time when we drove to Montreal.

Doggie said...

Yeah Hounds Of Love. I think I spent 2 years in my car with that one!