Turns out that despite advances in speech recognition, Amazon's Echo seems to think that I am some sort of surly, grunting teenager. Frequently it plays something that I didn't ask for, and sometimes just refuses to acknowledge that I even spoke to it. I don't think that it's showing the emotional intelligence to have taken against me just yet, but I can't help but notice that it takes particular umbrage at me. Having said that, at least one of its other users seems to think that, like the stereotype British person speaking to a foreigner, the way around this problem is to get close, to get slow, and to get loud. And then we get something from The Greatest Showman. I'm on record as saying that I don't like musicals, but that one is so ludicrous that the suspension of disbelief required to enjoy the set pieces is not difficult.
In any case, all of this is in celebration of the fact that Spotify (other music streaming services may well be available, but I have enough trouble dealing with just the one) seems to know all the music I used to listen to as a teenager. There are a few odd quirks - Superunknown, for example, exists in a weird anniversary edition so you constantly get random 'bonus' tracks rather than the proper album - and it really struggles with numbers in song titles. "Alexa, play Richard III," results in her moaning that she can't find that track. Ask, instead, for Richard 3, and she rather patronisingly answers with "Playing Richard III by Supergrass." As if that wasn't what I asked for the first time. The front page of this very website has been littered with snippets from the songs we've had on, something that has been a relative rarity in our house since we failed the challenge of arranging the CD collection in an easily accessible way.
So here's a question: I pay to access all this music on Spotify, but I don't own it. Should I care? If I pay for Spotify for the next fifty years at £120 a year, that's a mere £6000 for a lifetime's worth of music. Looking at the redundant CD collection, it can't have cost much less to put together. Oh well, maybe at some point you'll not have to pay any more, or perhaps the notion of ownership of music, film or story will shift. It'll be interesting to see how those with a vested interest in monetising these things react. But that's for the future.
It's the past, dead and buried, that we're contemplating here. Much like my experience at the university a week-and-a-bit ago, there's something about this stuff that was utterly, absolutely central to my identity (yes, really, I would have held my music to be that significant as a teenager). It's like the poems that Hector remembers but never understands, in that you knew the words but only perhaps with another twenty years of life do they come into focus. Chris Cornell's lyrics in the later 80s and early 90s always seemed to me overly dark and unrepresentative of (what I assumed to be) his life experience, because he was intelligent and articulate in a way that a lot of rock musicians just aren't, and I think I assumed that clever people would end up happier as a result. I also assumed that playing music for a living, touring and recording albums, couldn't help but be a happy, exciting lifestyle. Well, now I understand. Not every word, and not that I ever lived that lifestyle, of course, but now, some of those songs mean more than they did when I thought they meant everything.
But every now and then, they get interrupted half way through with something like that one from Moana (that isn't the one that The Rock sings) or the one from Trolls where she doesn't quite get eaten by a flower, and life changes pace again. Fortunately, the little one can't ask for his own tunes yet. But we're trying to train him.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought