by Ben Shine
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” -- Henry Ford
Ajay Kalia recently published research on the listening habits of not-quite-young Spotify and EchoNest users, and the results sounded pretty dire. Allegedly, based on data from these online listening hubs (for which Kalia works), people pretty much stop experiencing new music in any regular way at 32. There are a slew of reasons that these results are depressing, confusing, perhaps a sign of the end times. But maybe the saddest of all is that it indicates a loss of curiosity, a decision to turn away from new ideas, approaches, styles and themes. If these results are accurate, it also means that the masses of music lovers aren’t interested in learning anything new.
The idea that people do not want to learn, do not want to be culturally adventurous gets me a little bit unhinged.
But there is an antidote to this otherwise depressing news. There are actually several, but I’ll start with one story that I came across this week: Sharlene Birdsong is choosing to learn new things and to learn them in the context of sonic creation -- and re-creation. A multi-instrumentalist who has played with Thee Tsunamis and White Moms, Birdsong wants to learn how to record music. But it’s not enough for her to be exploring the [insert music production jargon here], she’s created a special project which is giving Indiana musicians the chance to learn, from the inside out, the songs of other Hoosier acts. It’s a covers project. It’s Indiana bands covering Indiana bands. I can’t wait to hear more. Are there T-shirts yet?
In the spirit of her project and of not being some old fuddy-duddy walled up in a cultural tower of boring, here’s a list of places where you can experience music that’s rooted in Hoosier dirt -- places that keep the general public (and me) -- learning about music.
Musical Family Tree: I know I bring up MFT a lot, but they seem to always be growing and evolving in the way they archive and present Hoosier music of today and the past. A recent connection to the local underground hip-hop scene expands their demographic reach and has made for an influx of interesting new musical content to the community. This is especially evident in their stellar Video in a Day series and the lineups at their own promoted shows.
Indy’s X-Files on Alt103.3 : Mix Master Kat Coplen and Hip-Hop artist Oreo Jones spend time each week on Alt103.3 putting local music on corporate radio.Say what? Each week features an Indiana-only playlist curated by the duo or special guest contributors, but always with a fun theme and range of local songs and artists. I’ll type that again just so it’s clear: They’re playing local music on corporate radio on Sunday nights.
Classical Music Indy : Indy’s classical music heroes working to connect Indianapolis to classical music with interesting programming aimed to make the genre more accessible and palatable for today’s Hoosier audiences through unique radio programming and community/experience-based programming (or “off-air” programming, as they call it). I really love their Random Acts of Music, where they stage pop-up classical performances all over the city.
Radio Free Indy: Constant online streaming of local and regional music, interrupted an hour or two here and there each week with interviews, in-studio performances and general promotion of all things Indianapolis music.
Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” There are worse ways to approach life than trying to be like everyone’s favorite physicist. Let’s be curious. Let’s explore. Whether you’re well over 32 like me or someone just figuring out your musical footing, there’s no reason not to set aside what you already know and find something new. I’m willing to go first -- teach me about your favorite resource for discovery of new music, whether local or not. Let me know.