Posted by: Yorgos | April 5, 2008

Text 15 – Listening to The Wall On the Road

Today I listened to the whole Pink Floyd’s album The Wall for the first time. Of course I knew a lot of the songs, but I had never really listened to the whole thing. I think it is a brilliant piece of music, and it was a mistake of mine that I hadn’t listened to it before. To be fully appreciated it has to be listened to from the beginning to end, non-stop. It is, after all, like reading a book.

I am not qualified, though, to speak about music in-depth. I am only a listener. But there is something that I find really interesting about this album and it is also (however remotely) relevant to the contents of this blog. I was listening to this album while walking somewhere (yes, pretty much the whole thing, with a few breaks – I walked a lot today), I had it in my phone and instead of listening to cars and horns and construction equipment, I was listening to Pink Floyd.

What I found interesting is the way the sounds of the environment blend, sometimes perfectly, with the music in the album. Pink Floyd are using a lot of sounds in this album that have nothing to do with the instruments (phones, baby cries, helicopters etc. etc.). That is why it was not strange at all when the cars and the yells just incorporated into the music. At some point I passed outside a store, where the radio was playing. For a minute I thought that Pink Floyd had used some greek radio sounds into their music and it took me a while to get over my puzzlement and realize what had actually happened. The Wall, as music, seems to be a perfect companion for when you are walking somewhere, just because the external sounds can actually fit together with the music.

Which brings me to a question. What is our experience of music now that it is so portable? One can listen to anything he wants to, just by carrying a mobile phone. Music has become an everyday occurrence, when it used to be something special, maybe even linked directly to moments of extreme sentiments (either of joy or misery and so on). By changing the nature of music, can it mean that we are trivializing it? I really don’t think so. I actually think that we are kind of lucky not only that we can listen to our favorite music on and on, but that we can carry it with us everywhere. Of course this brings us back to the question of man being an island (and music can promote isolation today, unlike at different eras), but it is really not the most serious problem in that department. Besides we can benefit from the repeated listening. Does someone really think that he can understand the full spectrum of Beethoven’s imagination by listening to a symphony once or twice? He comes closer to that by repetition (Umberto Eco has said something similar). Besides, modern music seems to be able to adjust to our noisy surroundings, as The Wall showed me.

Maybe music is better off (and so are we) as a small every day joy, than as a rare circumstance. In any case, though, it can always take the form of a special occasion (going to a concert for example). I find this topic about the role of music in our entertainment today very interesting. I might come back to it.


  1. You’ve brought up a lot of interesting points about music, I hope you’ll continue with this line of thought.

    I have thought a lot about music, particularly popular music, and spectacle. Can music really be a form of resistance to spectacle, or is it always incorporated into the capitalist agenda?

    The portability thing is problematic. It’s not new, we’ve had portable music for a long time now, but it is definitely more prolific now with mp3 players being more widely available. I find that walking around with earphones in is quite isolating actually. I often wear mine specifically so I don’t have to talk to people in public. On any given day, sitting on the bus, it seems to me that more people are listening to music than not. So what of interacting with real people on an everyday level? What of being a part of our community. I used to walk around Edinburgh listening to music all the time, but the more memorable wanders I had were the ones where I was chatting with random people, in shops, at the bus stop, or just while waiting to cross the street.

    That said, music is, to me, perhaps the most accessible of art forms and listening to it connects me to the larger culture. I love that, because I am constantly listening to music as I go about my everyday life, I have a “soundtrack” to go with every time in my life. And often times a song will do for me what the cake did for Marcel in Swann’s Way — instantly take me back through a memory. In this way it also connects me with people and with the material world.

    You know, The Wall has always been one of my favourite albums. One of my best memories is of lying in bed as a child, late at night, listening to The Wall as my mom blared it in the living room while she sewed. My understanding of it has evolved so much over the years — it tells a story for sure, but it is a very complex and multi-layered story. I would recommend watching the movie. And watch it a dozen times. I had seen the movie countless times since I was about 14, and I feel like I only just “got” it last year. It is a truly genius piece of work.

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