At work the music is piped through the system in iTunes, which is probably fairly normal for most of you. It’s on this setting where it fades in and out of songs much like the way a DJ would, so that you don’t hear the very end of tracks before the next one starts. In many circumstances, this is highly conducive for a work environment, because it helps to focus. You notice time less than you would if there were those few seconds in between songs. Also, it’s not my music being played, so I am not nearly as sensitive to the minute details.
Sometimes though, I’ll put on an album that I know very well. And I have to say, those fades really bother me. I feel a little bit like the princess and the pea, but when I expect a kind of buffer zone and then get denied, I get tripped up. You know that weird disconnect when you are walking up a flight of stairs, and you’re not really looking, and you take an extra step up when you don’t realize you’ve reached the top? You almost fall, because your preconceived sense of balance is completely thrown off. You feel foolish of course, but that feeling of otherwordliness is undeniable. And that’s how I feel when iTunes skips over that last one or two seconds. Even if – especially if – it’s dead space. I mean, that space was put there for a reason. When you are DJing a set, and you have a groove to maintain, it’s one thing, but when an album is running, it’s a whole other story. A whole other groove.
One more reason why this nags at me. I’m always talking about how music is becoming so habitual that it’s like a soundtrack, and that people aren’t paying attention to music as an event, and how that dilutes the power of the music and people’s ability to really experience it. What do I think people are missing out on? Well, the silence, as much as anything else. And that’s an important point to make, because just in the same way that negative space is just as much of a consideration as the shape itself, silence forms the sound and creates the boundary that defines the music itself. It’s like a photograph wouldn’t be a photograph without a frame.
I could go on about frames of reference, windows, thresholds, and House of Leaves, but let’s leave it here.