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Matt's LiveJournal

Random ramblings of a programmer, photographer, journalist and runner

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laptop, geek, MacBook, bursting, breakout

iPod Dissonance

While walking back home from shopping in Clifton Village last weekend, I was trying out my new iPod Nano. Neil Young's live version of Powderfinger started up. About halfway through I got an image of said Mr Young, on stage, hunched over his guitar, blasting this song out to a wild audience in the pouring rain, surrounded by his oversize stage-set and his midget stage-hands, with a look in his eyes that told you he was floating somewhere halfway between reality and musical perfection, or, at the very least, that he had taken an awful lot of acid that very afternoon. A raw slice of 1979, red in tooth and claw, a rock musician welcoming in the punk revolution.

I had a sudden difficulty in reconciling the reality of the live recording with the titchy little sliver of glossy technology on which it was being played. I actually stopped, took the Nano out of my pocket and looked at it for a bit. The sleekness, the ice-black sheen, the clever wheel control, the small, yet perfectly-formed colour screen. The cheery little Apple logo.

And suddenly it all seemed a bit sacrilegious. I mean. Taking an experience like that concert, and digitising it, squeezing it down into such a tiny modern device, and playing it over little bullet earphones. While wandering down a hill in Bristol, carrying Somerfield shopping bags back to my little flat. A breathtaking, revolutionary piece of music history downsized, reduced to the mundane.

Thing is, rock music, good rock music absolutely isn't slick, glossy, small and high-tech. It's not about sunny days and doing your shopping. It's a rambling, ramshackle monster, capricious and uncontrollable. It's different every time you play it. It's about jumping around in a big audience, sharing a common experience. It's about dancing so hard that you can't move properly the next morning, about a noise so loud that your ears are still ringing two days later. It's big.

And I'm not sure it fits on an iPod.

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Maybe the big stuff doesn't fit on an iPod but the memories sure do... I remember when I first hear Fire Woman by the cult live at the Wolverhampton Civic. I was dancing on top of one of the speakers and was blown away by the guitar solo by Billy Duffy, most of which was making my very long black Goth skirt vibrate :) Everytime I hear that guitar riff I get goosebumps at the memory. I know I'll never get that experience again so listening to the "memory" of it will have to do.

I know what you mean.

Matt, this is the kind of blog I like. It takes an idea, puts it into perspective, explores the reasoning behind it and finishes it off with that one single pithy one liner.


It is all in your head, whether on an iPod or in a stadium.

I still prefer to hear the music out loud though, whether on a good stereo or live.

Easier to sing along that way too...

Tori Amos is someone who is way, way better live than squashed into a recording. Listening to a recording of her is rather like looking at a picture in an old-fashioned photo album before you pull back the sheet of tissue paper - all the contrast & dynamic range is reduced.

RuthJ x

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