I’ve started a pretty bizarre project this year: to listen to all the music I own in alphabetical order (by artist and then by album name). Yes, that’s 14,245 tracks, nearly a thousand hours of music, from …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead to Yo La Tengo (Frank Zappa is under F). So if I listen for three hours a day, it’ll take me a year to get through it. It’s ambitious, but doable.
Why? For one, I’ll get to listen to more music. I swear, if I have to pick a CD to listen to, it can take me several minutes to do so. This eliminates choice. (And is much preferred to random, which is fun for a while, but quickly drives me nuts.) Second, it’ll give me a chance to rediscover old favorites I’ve forgotten, and explore music I haven’t yet given a fair shake.
I’ve also given myself some fairly loose rules: I don’t have to listen to A-Z exclusively; I can listen to any other music I want at any time. So if the mood is wrong, I don’t have to force it. However, I’ve found myself drawn to the challenge over the last month. The other rule is that if I get new music, I insert it into the library. It if comes after my current position in the alphabet, I’ll listen to it as part of the sweep; if not, too late.
At the start, I had some open questions. For instance, there are several artists for which I have many albums. Would listening to these albums all in succession drive me nuts? And which artist is going to be toughest? Would it be They Might Be Giants (219 songs, 7h33m)? Or Dream Theater (71 songs, 9h45m, average song length 8m13s)? Or maybe Alice in Chains (90 songs, 7h5m of depression)? Or the king, Beethoven (115 tracks, 17h34m)? Maybe I’d even enjoy that kind of immersion.
Progress thus far: I’ve made it through the As: (442 songs, 32h37m). Now onto Bach. It hasn’t been that bad. In fact, 7 hours of Alice in Chains was pretty cool. Worst experience so far: three albums of Autechre, which I had picked up because I liked Aphex Twin, but had never listened to seriously or in such isolation. Definitely not as good as Aphex Twin, and three albums worth (all listened to today) nearly put me over the edge. But I made it. And there have been more than enough quality experiences too. So far so good.
Just yesterday I thought of a cool addition. I signed up for Last.fm, a service that monitors what you’re listening to and suggests new tracks based on that data. I figured it would be neat to feed it my whole collection and see what it suggests. Unfortunately I had gotten through most of the As already, so all it got was Arrested Development, Arturo Sandoval, and Autechre thus far. Heh. Let’s see what it makes of that.