Every Song Ever:
Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty
in conversation with STEVE SMITH
This event includes a book signing
February 16, 2016
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes New York Times music critic BEN RATLIFF and assistant arts editor for The Boston Globe STEVE SMITH for a discussion of Ratliff's book Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty.
About Every Song Ever
What is listening in the digital era? Today, new technologies make it possible for us to roam instantly and experimentally across musical languages and generations, from Detroit techno to jam bands to baroque opera—or to drive deeper into the set of tastes that we already have. Either way, we can listen to nearly anything, at any time. The possibilities in this new age of listening overturn old assumptions about what it means to properly appreciate music—to be an “educated” listener.
In Every Song Ever, the veteran New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff reimagines the very idea of music appreciation for our times. As familiar subdivisions like “rock” or “jazz” matter less and less and music’s accessible past becomes longer and broader, listeners can put aside the intentions of composers or musicians and engage music afresh on their own terms. Ratliff isolates signal musical experiences—such as listening to repetition, speed, and virtuosity—and traces them across wildly diverse recordings to reveal unexpected connections. When we listen for slowness, for instance, we may detect surprising affinities between the drone metal of Sunn O))), the mixtape manipulations of DJ Screw, Sarah Vaughan singing “Lover Man,” and the final works of Shostakovich. And if we listen for closeness, we might notice how the tight harmonies of bluegrass vocals illuminate the virtuosic synchrony of John Coltrane’s quartet. Ratliff also goes in search of “the perfect moment”; considers what it means to hear emotion, by sampling the complex sadness that powers the music of Nick Drake and Slayer; and examines the meaning of certain listening behaviors, such as the impulse to document and possess the entire performance history of the Grateful Dead.
Encompassing the sounds of five continents and several centuries, Ratliff’s book is an artful work of criticism and a lesson in open-mindedness. It is a definitive field guide to our radically altered musical habitat.
"In this insightful guide to contemporary music appreciation, genre limitations are off the table …Ratliff’s scholarship shines; there’s a lot to be said for a book on music appreciation that can draw apt parallels between DJ Screw and Bernstein’s rendition of Mahler’s ninth symphony." —Publishers Weekly
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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