Why I Don't Buy the Idea of Shuffling

The advent of the MP3 format made music more portable. Add the technology to support it, you have a legion of earphone/headphone addicts roaming everywhere. Back to the days of cassette tapes, Sonys' Walkman seems to be the in-thing. Then came the mini-CD players then Steve Jobs. Everybody else knows what MP3 is. Everywhere you see people sporting their own portable MP3/music players.

The MP3 player revolution introduced us to the whole new concept of playlists. Yes,  with the advent of the technology , people were given the freedom to build their own playlist and not just restricted pre-arranged songs that came along with cassette tapes and CD's. Now you can choose your own favorite songs from different artist and albums and play it over and over again without the discomfort of bringing dozens of junk CD's or tapes.

After playlist, came an even more enticing feature, shuffles. This is the lazy way of generating a random playlist from your music collection. Just dump all your music into the player, shuffle it all or do some filtering based on the genre or artist name. That's easy non stop music for you.

Honestly, I sometimes create my  on playlist. Newer music players even allow you to create your playlist on the fly. I , during my laziest moment, try also to shuffle. But the whole idea of shuffling every time seems to not fit my listening preference. A bit of history will tell that I grew up during the heydays of the cassette tapes. The first album that I ever bought was Greendays' Dookie! From there, the collection grew and grew. I was used to serially listening to the whole album. No skipping, no fast forwards and rewinds, because mechanically they could damage the tape. Then came  the CD's. My style did not change, I refrained from fast forwards and rewinds, I religiously listened to every song on a CD. 

The pattern remained constant. When internet became the ocean of free pirated music, i never settled on downloading 1 song at a time. I was not even hooked to Napster, LimeWire and other P2P software that came. I was not interested to songs, I was more interested with the whole album. So there I was downloading music 1 album of a time. Torrent indeed became my best friend. Thus, I dont have a collection of randomly selected songs from different artist from different albums. I have a collection of songs arranged by album and by artist :)

Given the volume of MP3s that I keep, why did I not fall to the amazing idea of shuffling? Shuffling does not fit my listening style. While it is true that random music playing in your ear eliminates  monotony, it limits the time frame alloted for a listener to better appreciate the artists' musicality. You cant gauge an artists' potential based on a single billboard hit. The idea of "one hit wonders" reflects this concept. Sometimes, a single song sells like  hotcakes for some other reasons beside a good lyrics and a melody. There are also artist that can come up with an album worth of good music and, sometimes, some of the best songs are not those that were released for airplays. Thats the beauty of listening to the entire album, we discover things that others would not even know. There are surprises that are kept in between the tracks that is always waiting to be discovered. Here are two concepts that I think can help others reconsider the beauty of not shuffling :

  1. Some musicians are also great poets and great story tellers.  The song that they release for airplay may just be a small part of a bigger story that goes along with the album. Each track can become a chapter of a story ,  when read in random order can be confusing but when arranged chronologically would offer a very great story. Some albums were created with this concept and the best way to experience it is to listen to the whole of it in the manner how the artists have arranged them. Beatles were good at this concept.
  2. An album can be a well planned recipe. Each song contributing to its envisioned overall taste. To appreciate the whole piece, you have to listen to the whole album and enjoy the different tracks mixing subconsciously  in your head resulting in an sublime dose of wonderful music.
Weird as it seems, that is just me.  Welcome to my world!


Red Font said…
i enjoy reading your stories...