The Guardian ran a feature on CAS that sparked a healthy debate! Read on »

How do you listen to music?

Classic Album Sundays is a London club that invites people to listen to LPs in their entirety. It may sound Luddite, but could it teach us a thing or two about our listening habits?

Yesterday, as sometimes happens, I suddenly wanted – no, needed – to listen to Ricardo Villalobos’s track Waiworinao. But how? It’s not on my iPod, so digging out the Alcachofa album would have taken ages (my house is full of music, none of it organised). So, I did the obvious – I searched for it on YouTube.

I mention this because I don’t want you to think I am unreasonably precious about music. I listen to it while I work, while I’m running, as I read the paper, and I’m happy to play my music through crappy computer speakers, on the TV or via a DVD player. I might listen to an individual song, a random selection of tunes, a full album: whatever.

Consequently, I find Classic Album Sundays – a London club, covered by the BBC today, where people gather to listen to vintage albums in their entirety – just a little bit uptight, a little bit Luddite. Sitting with a group of thirtysomethings, listening to classic 70s albums (on vinyl of course), great as they may be, is not my idea of fun. You can just imagine the conversation in the bar afterwards: about how that grimes music and the dubstepping is all young people are interested in nowadays. With their Facebooks. And their MP3 machines.

Yet Classic Album Sundays makes one important point. Not about the sacred format of the album, but about the way we increasingly treat music as a disposable lifestyle accessory. When organiser Colleen Murphy talks about making people turn their phones off, shut the door and give these “works of art” some “heavy listening”, she is surely on to something.

We are all busy people and, as music fans, we now have unlimited musical distraction at the end of a broadband connection. We have increasingly little time to listen to a reserve of recorded sound that is growing exponentially every day. I find this can easily lead to drive-by enjoyment, a kind of panicked attempt to absorb as much music as possible – but without truly engaging with it. This is not the way to navigate your way through what Murphy believes to be profound art.

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