I realized last week while catching up on The Mandalorian that I have been using subtitles so much more recently. I chalked it up to getting older and not being able to hear dialogue as well. Interesting study here…
50% of Americans watch content with subtitles most of the time.
55% say it is harder to hear dialogue in shows and movies than it used to be.
62% of Americans use subtitles more on streaming services than regular TV.
I’m very particular about my algorithms. Whether it’s Netflix or Disney Plus or (especially) my Spotify account… I don’t have much grace for those who mess with my beloved stats and recommendations.
Music was one of those things that changed my life as a young person and opened my eyes to a wider world of thought and expression. I would lovingly arrange my CD collection weekly by descending order of how much I liked albums or artists as a 14-year-old. That continued into my binders of CDs we all kept in our cars in the late 90s while I was in college.
Of course, Napster and the trading community around bands such as Phish and the Grateful Dead led me to many late-night sessions working on papers and burning CDs on my trusty desktop in the early ‘00s while a grad student at Yale.
Then came the iPod. I had the second generation (yay Firewire!) and had a revelation about the portability of 1,000 songs in my pocket (A THOUSAND!). That also meant that whatever remaining physical media I had quickly became digital and I began to pour money into iTunes. Pandora came into the picture around this time, and I still have a playlist there going back to 2003.
All along the way, I waited for the day I could keep track of what I listened to and track long-term trends beyond what the iTunes interface offered. Then Last.fm launched, and I was beyond excited to have that service finally (complete with API’s and an open RSS feed that I would even tie into a Twitter bot that tweeted out what I was listening to in my house… sadly that broke in 2015). When Spotify finally arrived in the USA from Europe, I jumped on the bandwagon immediately and hooked it up to my Last.fm profile. And so, I’ve had a music catalog of what I’ve been listening to since August 2005.
Way back in 2012, I made a post about this as well. However, the Google Home and Apple HomePods were still a few years off, and my algorithms were protected. I’ve been good about keeping accounts separate and all of our children have their own Disney Plus, Netflix, and especially Spotify profiles.
However, in a moment of weakness, I connected my Spotify account to the Google Home profile that works for the device in our 4-year-old’s bedroom. BECAUSE SHE WANTED TO LISTEN TO PEPPA PIG STORIES. You can glimpse the carnage wrought on my once pristine and full of indie jangle pop Last.fm page documenting my personal music history. After just a week of torment, I now see this in my once-beloved Daily Mix.
And what is this madness on my Spotify dashboard… Grizzley and the Kids?? THE LEGO MOVIE 2 (ok, the movie was good and the ending made me cry)??
I thought about spending a few hours going through my Spotify and Last.fm profile and deleting all the 2,130 plays of Peppa Pig and associated music befouling my algorithm.
But then I stopped. And I laughed. And then I smiled. The story of my 4-year-old and our relationship is also being told here. I’ll never get back this time with her and her resolute love of Peppa Pig Stories or whatever Grizzley and the Kids is. I’ll always have this record of the seven days we got to share something very important to me and hopefully one day to her.
Being a parent means giving so much of yourself in completely unexpected ways. We know that we will have to give our young ones time, money, attention, lessons, sleep, etc. We don’t ever imagine something like a Spotify algorithm or list of songs that seemingly meant so much over the last 20 years could be impacted by a child or given over to them for a week.
But they are, and that’s amazing.
In the giving and sharing of ourselves as parents, we find the real soundtrack of our life and how our selfish wishes or want of specific songs to be played do not always determine that soundtrack.
So thank you to my 4-year-old for the reality check and the lesson she has given me with her songs. And for sharing those with me on my algorithm. Her playlist is amazing. I can’t wait to see how the soundtrack of her life develops and to know I will carry a little snippet of it here.
But rest assured… I changed her Google Home device’s default music service option to Apple Music since I don’t care about that algorithm. She can totally take Apple Music 🙂
I’m was too young to see the Grateful Dead live with Jerry Garcia, but I’ve tried to make up for it over the years by going to shows by Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, and collective groups of the members of the band over the years. I particularly got into the Dead during my time in grad school at Yale in the early ’00s (lots of shows, bumper stickers, doing CD trading of bootlegs and soundboard recordings of old shows on Dead forums, etc).
I’m still listening to their music 20 years later and I’ve always marveled at some of the theology in the words and music that the band and lyricist Robert Hunter have brought into the world.
Particularly, Ripple is a song that exemplifies the human experience and the journey we all might take. It doesn’t have to be a “theological statement” but geez is it a good one if that’s your persuasion and what you hear.
I’ve been going through my own journey as of late, and I feel like I’ve stumbled and had to find my own path. It’s been a difficult season of listening, hearing, and discernment. I’ve been listening to songs like Ripple over the past few months as reflections of my own path and what may lie ahead in the Tarot cards of existing and the harps unstrung. Let there be songs to fill the air.
So when I happened to come across this sermon from 1988 that Elizabeth Greene gave to First Unitarian Church of Oakland about Ripple and her voice certainly came through the music and I held them as my own. What a beautiful hand-me-down.
Regardless of your religious persuasion, I urge you to click play on the video above and open up her sermon from all those years ago while you listen for yourself:
…The “ripple” image took on new meaning for me. It was as though the reaching out, one of us to the other, is what causes that ripple in the wellspring of God. It is our having the courage to ask and the love to respond that lets us partake of the fountain. When we do, we affect each other; when we try to let our voice be heard, we ruffle the water; when we hear each other’s voice, hear them with our hearts, we widen the circle.
My favorite line in this song (along with “no simple highway”) is, “If I knew the way, I would take you home.” I don’t know the way, and you probably don’t either. My path is for my steps alone, and so is yours. But when we truly say, “If I knew the way, I would take you home,” we have so much more than just our separateness.
We have the music. (The final part of the song is simple La-de- da-da-da, sung together in harmony.) We have the fountain, a wellspring of grace as we travel.
We have one another. We have the love that lets us hear each other’s voices, that lets us reach out when our cups are empty– and share when they are full. (I am vastly richer for having finally “heard” some of what my Deadhead friends hear.) We have our common yearning for home, the God-ache we all know in some form or other…
Just to close the loop because I wanted to know, I did some googling (I didn’t know Elizabeth Greene before stumbling upon this amazing sermon) and the journey she mentions here from First Unitarian Church of Oakland to the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship was beginning. Turns out she pastored in Boise for 25 years and retired in 2013. What a journey. Goes along well with Ripple. Thank you, Rev. Greene.
David Bowie had an immense and long-lasting impact on me and I’ve been revisiting his music (even more than usual) lately as it has been 5 years since his passing on.
I first dove into Bowie because of Nirvana (I know, I know). Nirvana was the first band that I discovered early for myself, and that music has also shaped much of my own aesthetic. Their cover of Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” on their Unplugged album immediately caught my fascination. I had known about Bowie and knew of him from “Let’s Dance” and his role as the Goblin King in Labyrinth, of course.
But as a child in the ’80s and then a pre-teen and eventual teen in the ’90s, Bowie’s 80’s music was reminiscent of what I felt we were all pushing against. His ’70s material was almost off-limits in the same way KISS or Black Sabbath was to me… there was something secretive and occultist and just weird to my Southern conservative Baptist straight-laced white boy type. Nirvana was almost a bridge too far (indeed, a high school teacher spent a number of days having us analyze why Nirvana’s music was so terrible and destructive to “Western Culture” … turns out that turned us all on).
When I started doing a deep dive on Bowie because of Nirvana’s (masterful) cover in 1994, the persona had been reinvented again and he was associating with Trent Reznor and moving away from his 80’s MTV friendliness into industrial rock. I was just beginning to explore this area myself and Nine Inch Nails played a big part in that (I bought one of their t-shirts around this time having never heard them, but figured I should give them a listen). That led to me first experiencing Bowie through Earthling, which is a weird way to hop into Bowie.
Eventually, I explored his 70’s material (and then his 60’s works) and was blown away. Where had Low and the Berlin Trilogy been all my life? Ziggy is an amazing piece of work, of course. Hunky Dory is still one of my favorites. Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) comes just before Let’s Dance and hints at what would become industrial rock in the ’90s. It was all a revelation.
Station To Station was in there, plodding along with its otherworldliness. It took me some time to even listen all the way through in one sitting. It was only after I also earnestly began studying religion (modern and especially ancient versions) that I was finally brave (?) enough to hop in and attempt Station To Station.
I try to “read” music as literature. Now Station To Station is one of my favorite Bowie albums and this write-up from 10 years ago is one of the most effective descriptions of this piece of art…
Bowie constructs the most grandiose of love songs, the most overblown, epic ballads, mouthing hollow romantic clichés as if, by saying the lines with enough simulated passion, he will actually come to feel them. And yet, of course, all of this is just a construct, too- he knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s not a cynical act, because the desire to feel remains genuine- in its way, this is as stark and troubled a record as anything from Neil Young’s contemporaneous ditch trilogy, the musical polish and role-play only thinly veiling a soul on the edge, battling with addiction and paranoia and with what he, at least, genuinely believed were dark mystical forces just waiting to drag him forever into the abyss. “It’s the nearest album to a magical treatise that I’ve written,” Bowie has said, though perhaps a ritual spell of protection would be a more accurate description.
“We are in very early days of the Voice First revolution and Intelligent Voice First interactive advertisements along with true Voice Commerce will form the new backbone to Voice First AI just as pay-per-click and shopping carts formed the last revolution. In the next 10 years “Dumb Pipes” of audio and video channels that do not have Voice First AI deeply integrated, will be seen as ancient as live radio, TV and music downloads look today. Spotify took a great first step in to Intelligent Voice First interactive advertisements.“
I still remember the first time I heard Cher’s “Believe” while in college … I didn’t like the song, but it felt like something important was happening musically at a time that innovation was needed on the radio as we recovered from mid 90’s pop-rock in the post-grunge / machine-rock / neo-reggae era…
Rihanna is the dominant singer of our era, in no small part because the Barbados grain of her voice interacts well with Auto-Tune’s nasal tinge, making for a sort of fire-and-ice combination. Voice effects have been prominent in many of her biggest hits, from the “eh-eh-eh-eh-eh” pitch descents in “Umbrella” to the melodious twinkle-chime of the chorus in “Diamonds.” Then there’s Katy Perry, whose voice is so lacking in textural width that Auto-Tune turns it into a stiletto of stridency that—on songs like “Firework” and “Part of Me”—seems to pierce deep into the listener’s ear canal.