Photo by Illinois Springfield

Today’s idea is about sound. Specifically, acoustics and recorded music. Simply put, my idea is for people to turn up to a concert hall, sit down, and listen to a record.

There are a few ways you could approach this, but ideally, the listening experience would be curated and explained track by track by the person or people responsible for the recording – or the person who selected the collection of music, assuming that’s someone whose opinion you’d have cause to respect.

And then, after the concert, everyone would be handed a CD copy of the music they’ve just heard. Ideally, they’d be limited edition recordings with programme-like liner notes that you could only get if you went to the event.

This may not necessarily work for all music, but it does work for music that’s primarily designed to be listened to (as opposed to music that’s designed to be danced to in clubs, for instance), and those forms of music for which audio fidelity is an important consideration (though of course, I’m not just talking about classical or jazz music here).

Um… why?
There are a few things that have brought me to today’s idea.

First, I used to be a sound engineer, and there is nothing like hearing a great recording on amazing equipment in a superb listening environment. Of all the things I miss about being a sound engineer (and to be honest, there aren’t that many) it’s the jawdropping, breathtaking experience of an amazing piece of music represented on fantastic equipment in an ideal acoustic space.

Most people think they wouldn’t really notice the difference, and that music’s fine on the radio, on mp3 or on their home stereo. There’s nothing wrong with those things, and most of my listening is done in that way, but it really is the difference between YouTube and an IMAX screen. Trust me – the difference will knock you over.

Second, I’ve been going to a couple more classical concerts recently, and I’ve been struck by the acoustics and the clarity of sound that promotes the act of close listening, which is a completely different experience of music.

And third, I was blown away by a piece of music recently in a context that I’m not normally in. But because the person who made the music both explained the conditions for the creation of the music, and the care that had gone into the way it sounded, my attention was drawn to certain elements of that – and it changed my relationship to that piece of music.

Recorded Music as Experience rather than product
I really think there’s a missed opportunity, both culturally and commercially, when recordings of music are considered only as a product, and not given the kind of serious attention afforded other media (cinema, particularly).

I’m not meaning this in a snobbish way, and nor do I think this would be limited to acoustic forms. I think a lot of fun could be had releasing pop and rock music in this way. Imagine Radiohead did this. Or Death Cab for Cutie. Or Gorillaz. Or Meshuggah. I’d pay for that.

And I suspect that a lot of people would pay to come and have McCartney walk you through Sergeant Peppers; Joni Mitchell play a recording of Blue from start to finish and reflect upon its meanings; or the Blue Nile present the magnificent A Walk Across The Rooftops in a concert hall.

But the chance to hear an amazing record in what is traditionally a live ‘serious music’ context – especially when presented by someone you respect and admire – gives the occasion a real sense of… well, occasion.

Compilation and curation
But the other thing that got me thinking was the Meltdown Festival, in which a single artist selects a range of other artists to showcase, with fascinating results.

I’d love to see a similar thing happen but with a particular artist’s favourite recordings showcased, with the release of a compilation album as a result. Meltdown meets Back to Mine, if you like.

It could be held in interview format, or with the curator prefacing each recording with some information or personal anecdote.

But the point of the exercise is to sit down, pay attention, do nothing else other than listen to great recordings of great music on a great sound system in a great acoustic space.

As usual – the idea’s all yours to do what you want with it. Feel free to invite me to one if you decide to go ahead with it, won’t you?

Table of contents for 30 Days of Ideas

  1. The other way of following first
  2. Now we’re up and dancing
  3. 30 days of ideas – 01: Keymash
  4. 30 days of ideas – 02: Radio Alerts
  5. 30 days of ideas – 03: Only Famous (a romantic comedy)
  6. 30 days of ideas – 04: Modcasts
  7. 30 days of ideas – 05: Numberless Calendar
  8. 30 days of ideas – 06: SpringCleanr
  9. 30 days of ideas – 07: Street Gallery
  10. 30 days of ideas – 08: Smart Business Cards
  11. 30 days of ideas – 09: Recordings in Concert
  12. 30 days of ideas – 10: Vinyl scanner
  13. 30 days of ideas – 11: Photo Stack-and-Scan
  14. 30 days of ideas – 12: A Box of Cool
  15. 30 days of ideas – 13: Karaoke-Tube Celebstar Idol
  16. 30 days of ideas – 14: I Made You A Tape
  17. 30 days of ideas – 15: Newspaper download codes
  18. 30 days of ideas – 16: Pebble Splash
  19. 30 days of ideas – 17: Digital radio, somewhere useful
  20. 30 days of ideas – 18: Public domain music collection
  21. 30 days of ideas – 19: Blog cast-list automator
  22. 30 days of ideas – 20: The Retirement Pile
  23. 30 days of ideas – 21: Nationalise EMI
  24. 30 days of ideas – 22: The Stainless Steel Rat (the movie)
  25. 30 days of ideas – 23: WordPress Bandcampify template
  26. 30 days of ideas – 24: Rollercoasters as public transport
  27. 30 days of ideas – 25: Next-gen personalised music radio
  28. 30 days of ideas – 26: New Music Trust
  29. 30 days of ideas – 27: Tamagotchi Gardening
  30. 30 days of ideas – 28: Charity shop clothing subscription
  31. 30 days of ideas – 29: ‘Now Playing’ social music app
  32. 30 days of ideas – 30: House of Spare Ideas
  33. Mixtape for You by Ray Kuyvenhoven
  34. What can you do in 30 days?