Sunday, January 25, 2009

Headphone Space

Despite expressing scepticism about the sonic limitations of headphone-based Silent Disco, I agree with the sentiments of Future Next Level's Ode to Headphones. He is undoubtedly right that 'Headphone space is quintessential to the appreciation of music' but also correct that it only really works with decent cans. The fact is that despite the ever expanding quantity and accessibility of music, the quality of the listening experience is in some ways in decline. Many of us listen to a lot of music with tiny earbuds, on mono ipod docks, or on the crappy speakers on laptops and phones. When we listen through a decent pair of headphones instead it can be a revelation - there's just so much sound which is just not reproduced properly on any of the above.

I had one such memorable experience of headphone space when I first got the Burial album. I walked from New Cross to Kennington, via Peckham and Camberwell, listening to it on the big conspicuous headphones that I wouldn't normally advise people to wear on the streets of South London. Anyway that just added an appropriate edginess to the mood, mixed in with pleasantly melancholic memories sparked by the locations and the music's invocation of the ghosts of parties past (in my case wandering past places I used to go like the boarded up Imperial Gardens club and Camberwell Squatted Centre, this sense was very tangible). Anyway the point is that it was the headphones that allowed me not to only to hear the music in all its depth, but to immerse myself in the moods it conjured up, changing my relationship to the places I was passing through - music as a soundtrack not a background distraction.

1 comment:

bob said...

I once heard an interview with Jarvis Cocker talking about borrowing someone's Walkman and listening to John Barry while walking around Sheffield, and the music transforming the boring everyday into an amazing movie. I feel like that as I hear, say, Calexico's spaghetti western "Guns of Brixton" on my headphones while riding the 171 bus (to give the example of the song that just serendipitously came on to my Media Player while I read your post).