Sonic Love (Or, why I listen to new music)

Jazz musicians Charlie Parker, Tommy Potter, Max Roach recording in studio

Why do I listen to new music?

I listen to new music because I want to fall in sonic love sixty-seven times a night with brand new songs by bands I’ve never heard before.

I listen to new music because I like a walking bass line and a boogie-woogie chorus. I like it when you change it up; I like it when you slow it down. I like it when you whoop! right at the start and I like it when your voice gets a little sobby at the end.

Oh yeah, I listen to new music: I don’t care if you had lessons in the instrument you play or if you taught yourself how to play that thing— just gimme those three chords and the truth, play ’em well and play ’em with heart and you’ve got my attention.

I like it when you play standards. I love it when you play original compositions. I adore it when you take risks, and it breaks my heart when you bear your heart for all the girls to see.

Know I’ll always be right at the radio when you lay every little bit of what you’ve got on the line in a brand new tune.

Cab Calloway singing and characteristically tossing his hair.

Let me explain a little more emphatically: I listen to new music and old music and right now music and up-and-coming music.

I’m not turned off that you don’t have a record deal yet. I don’t care how old or how young you are. I don’t care if you’re pretty or if you dress trendily or if you’re dating a movie star. I don’t give a flip about your musicology degree; I’m glad you studied with Itzhak Perlman, but that’s not what impresses me.

So what if Deutsche Grammophon dropped you from their label? You know me and a thousand-thousand others, we’re still listening. (And we’re still buying too!)

Please know that I listen to new music now, but I didn’t always listen to new music.

I found my favorite independent record stores too intimidating when I was a youth and there were no radio stations for people my age when I was growing up. (And I was broke as hell.) Just like many folks, I found a few bands I liked and a bunch of old school stuff I loved, a bunch of jazz standards and some symphonic things to which I was utterly devoted. I finally got some cash together and bought some great albums. I thought I was set.

For about five years, I didn’t listen to new music and I kind of forgot how to do it.

And I could have kept on enjoying that great same ol’ same ol’ for years and years after that, but I chose to do something different.

I chose to keep listening, keep on listening, listening, listening to brand new music.

Every day I’m surprised by something I haven’t heard before.

Every day I wake up amazed at how diverse the melody can be and still, how familiar—

There’s a Balkan-style orchestra on the radio right now, and after that will be the newest hot guitarist from Sudan. There are six girls who’ve got a new punk riff that’s a riot; there’s a man with a concertina you’re not gonna wanna miss. They’re playing some mad-good rock in Beijing these days, and later, we’ll listen to one of those jazz songbirds from the 1940s, the one who wore a fresh orchid behind her ear at all her shows.

Billie Holiday, giving all she's got.

You see, every day I wake up in a profound silence. I don’t talk and the dogs don’t bark and not a single car passes down the street for hours while I work.

But when I turn on the stereo, it crackles to life and so do I.

So, each and every day, I listen to good music and terrible music and I love it all.

Every day, I’m ready to go a little bit farther into aural territory I haven’t visited before.

Every day, I revisit the places I’ve been, the songs I’ve learned to love, the artists I respect. And more than all that— I listen, I really, really listen to new music.

So, musicians, do me a favor: Break my heart. Send me soaring. Make me brood. Take me far away— but let me join you on the chorus. Will you let me join you on the chorus? Let me join you on this chorus (and we’ll say it all together now—)!

So now you know—

Yes, I listen to new music.

Why? (Oh, you know the answer!)

Because it’s there.

Because you created it.

Because it’s beautiful.

Because you made it timeless.

Because it’s wonderful.

Because it’s real.

And I’m going to keep listening to all your new music, musicians—

because I can.

Jazz musicians Larry Adler and Paul Draper hamming it up.

WHAT, YOU’VE NEVER SEEN THESE PHOTOS BEFORE? On Bluebird Blvd., we’ve taken the opportunity to post a number of things from the Library of Congress WILLIAM P. GOTTLIEB collection. William Gottlieb was a writer and (self-taught!) photographer who captured the spirit and the playfulness of the jazz era in the 1940s in writing and pictures. His story is quite remarkable, so if you get a chance, check out the Library of Congress site, William Gottlieb: Photographs from the Golden Age of Jazz.

Third, BILLIE HOLIDAY. (She’s the singer who fancied orchids, but many jazz singers wore fresh flowers in their hair— it was the style at the time.)

About Courtenay Bluebird

Courtenay Bluebird is the creator of Bluebird Blvd. and The Bluebird B-Side. She is a published writer, career journalist, and professional photographer who likes books and sweets. She laughs loudly and sincerely both in public and in private.
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