From Alex Ross’ essay, "Listen to This," in the latest New Yorker:
I have seen the future, and it is called Shuffle—the setting on the iPod that skips randomly from one track to another…. There is something thrilling about setting the player on Shuffle and letting it decide what to play next.
Sometimes its choices are a touch delirious—I had to veto an attempt to forge a link between György Kurtág and Oasis—but the little machine often goes crashing through barriers of style in ways that change how I listen. For example, it recently made a segue from the furious crescendo of “The Dance of the Earth,” ending Part I of “The Rite of Spring,” right into the hot jam of Louis Armstrong’s “West End Blues." The first became a gigantic upbeat to the other. For a second, I felt that I was at some madly fashionable party at Carl Van Vechten’s. [Ed: But who hasn’t had that feeling, frankly?]
On the iPod, music is freed from all fatuous self-definitions and delusions of significance. There are no record jackets depicting bombastic Alpine scenes or celebrity conductors with a family resemblance to Rudolf Hess. Instead, music is music.
It seems to me that a lot of younger listeners think the way the iPod thinks. They are no longer so invested in a single genre, one that promises to mold their being or save the world. This gives the life-style disaster called “classical music” more of a chance….
Update: This great essay has inspired me to play around with the shuffle feature myself, with good results.
Update 1/12/2005: The thread on iPod, the shuffle, and interesting ways to listen to music continues in:
- Wired News on iTunes shuffle
- Smart playlists
- Spreading iTunes sharing
- If Proust had iTunes
- What should be after the iPod shuffle?
[To the tune of Kate Bush, "Deeper Understanding," from the album The Sensual World.]