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Mix Blog: (Re)Discovering Why I Love Music

I’ve had a whole lot of fun listening to music lately, and it all started about three or four months ago...

music leagueI’ve had a whole lot of fun listening to music lately, and it all started about three or four months ago when my daughter Jesse sent a group email to me, my other daughter (and her sister), Molly, and her husband, Nick, along with her godfather, my best buddy Dave, who would be joined by his wife, Emily, as a teammate. The email said, “Hey everyone, John (her longtime partner) and I were wondering if you would all like to join a music league with us. We’re in one right now with John’s friends. It’s free, it doesn’t take a huge obligation, and it’s super-fun! We could call our league Fam Jams. Here’s how it works…”

It’s not that I hadn’t been listening to music, or that I no longer enjoyed it. I put on tunes when friends come over, and it’s always in the background at family gatherings. I click on files sent to me from both PR agencies and friends, and I would open YouTube videos if I had a question about an artist or if a song just popped into my head. Then I’d go right back to work.

The problem is I work from home in front of a laptop screen all day, and have for the past six years. There’s no time alone in the car during the commute, and no more discussions around the conference table with fellow editors. No more Sunday brunches with my teenage girls while listening to Billie Holiday. A large majority of my CDs are now in boxes on a shelf. When the laptop lid closes each night and I begin to make dinner, I find myself much more likely to turn on the Warriors game than pop in Blonde on Blonde.

Music, I would come to realize, was no longer built into my daily rhythms and routines, and it had been drifting away slowly for a while.

Then Jesse sent the email about creating a music league, so I downloaded an app to my iPad and pulled out my four-speaker Harman Kardon Bluetooth monitor. It’s not hi-res by any means, but that’s not the point. I can go to another room for that. For the past four months, I’ve had a total blast in both discovering new music and rediscovering artists from my past. I spend hours going down wonderful rabbit holes, in search of another song. I send text messages to my brothers about a song we both love, and phone conversations with those in our league will inevitably end up revolving around the current week’s theme. I love it! So here’s how it works…

Music League is an app that’s somehow associated with Spotify; I don’t know if the one owns the other, and I don’t really care (other than the fact that it’s awfully hard to find a Neil Young song to submit when you really want to). Somebody in each group serves as the League’s administrator and sets up the parameters for Number of Rounds, the weekly Theme, and the number of Points allotted each Round for voting. Then each member is notified that they have a week to submit a song based on that week’s Theme. Once everyone has submitted a song, a playlist is generated and each member assigns points to each song, except, of course, for their own. Everything is kept anonymous until all the votes are in and you find out who won the Round.

Open Channel: You Matter. Yes, You.

In our case, Jesse was the Administrator and set Fam Jams up as a six-member, eight-round league, with 10 points each week for voting. Our Themes included Open Season Thanks, Mom and Dad, Grrrl Power, Location, A Family Affair, Current Obsession and a couple of others. With five songs and only 10 points to spread around, you quickly learn that if one song gets a 4, then someone else is probably going to get a 1.

But it’s not about the competition. I didn’t even realize until after Round 3 that there was a tab to click on for the running total. It’s about the conversations, the comments, the strategy, the hours spent digging into Bruce Springsteen to find the right Deep Cut. It’s about the emotion and memories we attach to a song. It’s about trying to figure out who submitted what while voting, later to find out you were wrong. It’s about the pride in learning that it was your daughter who won that week with Stevie Wonder’s 1995 live version of “Livin’ in the City,” or that your other daughter won for The Tragically Hip’s “Bobcaygeon.”

It pains me that Spotify underpays artists and producers, and I’m fully aware that I’ve been listening mostly on a Bluetooth speaker. But the joy I’ve had these past few months has nothing to do with bit rates or Atmos, and everything to do with memory, emotion and (re)discovery. Music is art, and good art moves us, no matter the medium.

In this issue, Kelly Pribble, director of media recovery technology at Iron Mountain Entertainment Services, tells us that he has a simple motto: “It’s only rock ‘n’ roll if you can play it.” Thank you for preserving the legacy, Kelly! And Craig Anderton talks about the value of music in a way that no spreadsheet can measure.

As Delmar said to Everett and Pete in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, “I’m with you fellers!”