Blog - Unity Behind Diversity

Searching for beauty in the dissonance

Tagged: sufjan stevens

Make your music downloadable so people can connect with it

Mathausen Concentration Camp - July 2004

I’m listening to my music library on random right now, and a song just came on that was playing on my digital audio player when I was arriving by bus at the Mathausen Concentration Camp a few years ago. When it started to play on the bus then, it sent chills down my spine. When it played just a few moments ago, I felt as if I was there again.

I was introduced to a few Dispatch songs in the fall of 2002 — The General and Out Loud. I bought one of their live albums, Gut The Van, a few months later. I was disappointed because it didn’t really click with me. In August 2003, I gave it another chance while I was in Barbados. It clicked. I found out later that fall that the band had broken up, but I went to Boston in 2004 and New York in 2007 just to see their reunion concerts. And I didn’t like the live album at first.

Last night and on the way to work today, I listened to a few songs off some of my favourite albums — H. from Ænima (Tool), Lateralus and Schism from another Tool album, Lateralus, All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands from Seven Swans (Sufjan Stevens) and Recycled Air from Give Up (The Postal Service). I can tell you the precise moment when the Sufjan Stevens song became a part of my life and exactly what I was going through. When I listened to Recycled Air, I was brought back to the second week of May when the song helped get me through a rough few days. H. immediately brings to mind the face of a friend I parted ways with for a while. Schism and Lateralus both evoke so many different emotions (pieces, spirals and math), all linked to specific times or places over the past five years. From the same album, I can tell you exactly where I was and who I was with when I finally and fully felt and understood Reflection.

It’s these moments that make me want more.

I remember when I first saw Robyn Dell’Unto perform. The song she played first isn’t recorded yet, but I heard it again when she played it for me leading up to a gig in May. Both of those eternal instants are still present in my mind. Yesterday, Robyn introduced me to Craig Cardiff‘s music. I could tell she was a bit disappointed that I didn’t seem to be impressed at first. His music sounded great, I just haven’t had a chance to connect with it. She left it playing in the background.

I’ve tried to make the point before: if I can’t listen to your music, how am I supposed to connect with it?

Music alone is often not enough to catch your attention. I hear a lot of good music all the time, but I couldn’t possibly come to love and know all of it. I find what makes the difference between the music that crosses the threshold and that which remains unnoticed is often merely fortune and circumstance, which determines whether or not we are given the opportunity for that music to resonate with us. Hearing a song in one situation might not leave an impression, but hearing it another time when it has a direct connection to your experience or current events in your life can leave a permanent mark.

This is one of the reasons I think artists should make their music available for download. It’s like Andrew Dubber says, people hear music, people like music, people buy music. Or in Haydain Neale‘s words, people feel music in this order: hips, heart, head (well, he actually said “groin, heart, mind”, but I like the alliteration).

In order for people to go from hips to heart to head or from hearing to liking to buying, they need exposure. There’s no real pattern in my examples as to whether the connection came before or after a purchase, but when I connect with music like I have in the cases above, I don’t forget it. And I support it (e.g. Dispatch concerts). That’s how you earn a true fan. Streaming a couple tracks on MySpace doesn’t do it. I can’t take that with me and hear it when it might be relevant for me, when I might connect with it or relate to it. I don’t have the same opportunity if I have to sit on your website. Make it downloadable.

To those with hesitations, what’s more important — another album sale or another true fan? True fans buy albums. Focus on allowing people to connect with your music.

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Australia: Ayer’s Rock, Alice Springs, Cairns, Airlie Beach

After Melbourne, we flew into Ayer’s Rock. We were shuttled to the resort complex, which is the only place to stay. Except, we didn’t yet have a place to stay. We got off by the information centre and found a room at the Desert Gardens Hotel. We booked a sunset tour for that evening and a bus to Alice Springs for the next day.

The tour took us to through the Ulurua – Kata Tjuta National Park (photos). We saw Kata Tjuta and did a bit of a walk up into the rock structure. The guide told us a bit about the Anangu people and the significance of these rocks, but when remarking about Kata Tjuta, he said he wasn’t actually able to tell us anything about the sacred significance of the structure because the Anangu people had decided that the tour guides weren’t privy to that level of information, they were only given a lower level of access of knowledge. “Talk about non-free culture,” I remarked, and Heather actually laughed.

We then made our way to watch the sunset by Uluru (photos). It was a lot of fuss over a giant rock, yet it was actually pretty impressive. The colours in the rock and soil were so vivid. And, I was introduced to Schweppes carbonated lemonade.

We took it easy in Alice Springs, spent the night in and just wandered into the town for the day. Not much to see, as the real attractions are all the tours to Kings Canyon and Uluru – Kata Tjuta, but we had some time to relax before flying to Cairns. The highlight for me was really the bus ride to Alice, where we were treated to a recording of a talk by Len Biddell — Australia’s “last great explorer” — on the way over. Absolutely hilarious.

Cairns was a welcome change of weather. Away from the cold in Melbourne and the dryness of the red centre, it was finally humid. We also scored big on accommodations, by accident really (we booked the morning of). When we showed up, we were greeted with a huge smile. “Alleyne, right? Okay, you’re in 506, you can make your way up to the room. Door’s unlocked, keys are inside, we can worry about the paperwork in the morning. Just call down if you need anything!” We thought we’d booked a single room, but we walked into an apartment – kitchen facilities, a common room, bed room, balconies, etc… and we’d only paid $149/night! We took advantage of the kitchen facilities and did some grocery shopping for the next few days. If you’re staying in Cairns, definitely check out the Inn Cairns Boutique Apartments.

Thursday, we explored the city. Walked down to the beach, walked through the shops. Heather bought some books and I bought a banjo. We saw a music shop which advertised instruments starting from $89. I went in thinking I might buy a cheap travel guitar, like a small nylon string or something, but I couldn’t quite come to terms with the fact that I’d have no real use for it in a few weeks time. I asked about banjos. There was a $99 second-hand one in the window. We went back to the apartment to get some cash and within the hour I had one more piece of luggage to cart around. I was worried that a banjo would fulfill my folk fix but leave me wanting on the rock side of things, but I forgot how wicked T. Nile is and how intense Sufjan’s banjo riffs can be.

Friday, we went on a half day tour of the Great Barrier Reef (photos). We took a boat to Green Island where we did glass bottom boat and semi-submarine tours. We also did a walk through of a crocodile farm (photos) with some huge freaking crocs. In the evening, we wandered around and had dinner on the esplanade, and we left on a midnight bus to Airlie Beach.

We arrived yesterday morning in Airlie and spent the afternoon exploring the strip and lying on the beach. Today, we went on the Reef Jet day tour (photos). We tried snorkeling (photos) at Hook Island with mixed results. Heather remembered how much she hates fish after she jumped into the water. I was extremely cold. I managed to snorkel for a bit, but I couldn’t control my breathing very well at all. I thought I was out of breath from working too hard in the water, but when I got out of the water I realized it was because of the cold. I spent a good half hour shivering afterwards, but the little bit of snorkeling I was able to do on the reef was a lot of fun. We also visited a few other islands on the tour before heading back to town.

We’re starting to run into more people coming to World Youth Day. We noticed a group from Cologne on the tour and we met someone from Boston at the evening mass tonight in Cannonvale (just next to Airlie). Monday, we fly to Brisbane and by Friday we’ll already be back in Sydney. It feels as if the trip is winding down, but we’re really only halfway through. World Youth Day is certainly approaching quickly and before we know it the trip will be transformed into something completely different. I think we’re both looking forward to settling down in one place for a bit since we’ve been moving so quickly these past few weeks. We have some scheduled down time in Brisbane and in Sydney (before WYD begins).

One week today, we’ll be back in Sydney. Two weeks today, we’ll be at the Papal mass. Three weeks from now, we’ll be back at home in [semi-]normal routines.

But 10 hours from now we need to be on a flight that we’ve yet to book, so that’s enough blogging for now!

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