Experiencing iPod: Immersed in Music

About a month ago, my 60GB “iPod with video” arrived in my mailbox. Just like with most purchases that I have been looking forward to buying for a long time, after playing around with the iPod for a few days, my emotions towards it gradually changed from “Wow, man! That’s something I so must have!!” to “OK, it’s a music player. Now what?!” Only after really using it for some extended periods of time in the recent days do I finally see just what is so cool about this thing.

As a kid, I enjoyed that stereotypical listening to music “under the sheets:” way after bedtime, I’d grab a little radio or tape player, put on its headphones, and listen to whatever music I was into at the time. During my personal “Sturm und Drang” years, I used to not only listen to complete albums, but I would also very often juggle LPs and, later, CDs, picking just my very favorite tracks from each album to create my personal ad-hoc playlists.

Sometime between adolescence and adulthood I lost that personal link to music a little bit. Part of the reason probably was that, while at university, I did not have as nice a stereo system as we had at home. Instead, I listened to a lot of CDs and, later, digital music on my computers, which is basically OK, but I still do like that “appliance” feeling for music playback devices. As much as I like iTunes, having to run a fully-blown computer to listen to music is just not the same as switching on a hardware device, popping in a CD, and hitting the “Play” button.

The amazing thing that’s happening to me right now — literally “right now,” as I am lying on my sofa, typing this and listening to the iPod — is that I am re-discovering my early listening habits. Sometimes, I listen to complete albums; sometimes I pick my favorites-of-the-moment, wildly jumping around between artists, albums, playlists, and genres. There’s a huge difference to those record juggling days, though: with the iPod, I can now access my whole music collection of some 4,000 songs wherever I go, and moving between tracks is so much easier than handling a physical medium.

Best of all, that pleasant warm feeling of shutting out the rest of the world with my music is back full-force: I am totally immersed in all those beautiful tunes, I am almost bathing in the soothing melodies, engulfed by the harmonies, and touched by the lyrics. Also thanks to the iPod, I have bought a bit more music recently than I used, not only because I can now store it all in one place and always bring it with me. It also has a lot to do with the fact that, by re-experiencing those early listening habits, I tend to re-develop closer links with the music that has provided, and still provides, the sound track to my life.

In this regard, one of my favorite features of the iTunes Music Store is that I can buy some single tracks that I have enjoyed years ago, but never got around to buying, more often than not because I liked a specific track, but not the other tracks of the LP or CD it was featured on. To give you just one example, last week I heard The Corrs’ version of the fabulous “Old Town”, which I just loved back when the original by Phil Lynott was listed in the charts. Although The Corrs’ cover version is quite OK, Phil’s original is so much better. I’ve bought that track via iTMS now, and, boy, does it bring back a load of memories.

Ever since MP3 players started to revolutionize the way we store and enjoy music, there was a lot of criticism about how people would not listen to music “properly” anymore, by cutting albums in part, instead of listening to them in one go; by listening to a constant shuffle across their whole music libary; by promoting isolation because everyone is exclusively listening via headphones; etc. It’s true: if you never enjoy a great album in its artistic entirety; if you don’t consciously choose your music; or if you never visit a music club or concert, your music experience will be extremely limited. But if you use all the capabilites this awesome device has to offer, an iPod can vastly enhance your enjoyment of music. What’s more, as you know now, I have fostered those “improper” listening habits way before MP3 players were even on the map, anyway!

It’s due to the iPod, and only the iPod, that I am now starting to enjoy music more intensely than I have in a long time, and that I have even rediscovered that sensation of being truly deeply immersed in music, leaving the world behind for a few precious tracks. It’s that joy of pure, direct access to music that, beyond all technical details, is the real core value of the iPod.

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