Of course, to make my position, we need to get a few terms straight. By musical literacy, I don't mean an ability to read music or having an intrinsic affinity for picking up "complex" or "sophisticated" music. I think of it as the ability, or even the drive, to listen to album created by musical artists in its entirety. To ponder their questions, feel the changing textures as the album progresses; to find themes in the music that are both written and heard. With the large proportion of singles being released online people are settling for their understanding of the artists' music. For example, listening to the title track of Viva La Vida is all well and good, but to hear it out of context is to look at just on cloth tile on a larger fabricated design. I may seem to be exagerrating, but I can promise you I'm not. Because we can purchase songs track by track, we forgo the pattern of listening that an artists has set up for his or her listeners.
I for one, remember the first time I opened up Radiohead's 1997 masterpiece, OK Computer. I can't take credit for listening to it on my own (a friend referred it to me), and to add further insult to injury I only listened to the lead singles "Paranoid Android" and "Karma Police." The rest, I thought, was filler. Previous to this, I had only bought Nickelback and Linkin Park albums, CD's that worried more about a stnadout single than an album of quality. It took me many spins of OK to start truly getting into the music. So I am a product of the musical industry as much as anyone else. I was taught CD's housed two or three good songs, and nine others to get the label's sign-off. But as I learned, this is only one way to produce and create an album. Let me state it plainly-musical depth can only be taken so far song-by-song. Hit hip-hop singles and dance tunes seem to permeate today's radio, and it honestly makes me sad. It's not that I hold some kind of superiority over those who like dance music (I like Daft Punk just as much as the next guy), but it's more that music is released by artists in organic ways (Nickelback may prove otherwise, but the point largely remains the same).
People tell me every day that the age of the album-of listening to an entire LP, is dead. I don't necessarily believe this to be the case, however. Take a look at Radiohead's 2006 release of In Rainbows; Coldplay's 2008 release of Viva La Vida; Green Day's 2004 American Idiot (just because I don't like it doesn't detract from my point!); Rise Against's 2008 Appeal to Reason; The Killers' 2004 Hot Fuss; hell, I'll even include Kanye West's 2008 release, 808's and Heartbreaks. For those of you who think I have a slight rock bias, you're completely correct, although I'm working on expanding my genre tasting as the days go by.
With these albums in tow, I can see the age of the LP is alive and well, but that download-by-song singles may be deteriorating the very system music itself is based on. What is a concerto without a beginning, middle, and end? What is a movie with an opening, a plot, and a closing (character development, of course, along the way)? What is a Shakespearean play without five interconnected acts? People can like singles, I know they can get me hooked in music. But what people are missing ultimately, I believe, is that next step into the music. It isn't people's insistence on making music more user friendly and streamlined, but their refusal to step further into the art they are merely dabbling in.
This is a rant. I'm sorry if this seems nonsensical, but I complained about not having an audience before, and clearly I can see you guys are out there...so I suppose I'll eventually (hopefully) see where you stand on this. In the mean time, I know someone in the class is doing a research paper on this-listen to the albums above, it may just give you hope yet! And the rest of you, give those discs a spin or two-you never know just how deep your musical literacy may go unless you flex it a few times.
Love and Kisses,