The basic definition of what this site sets out to do is to be found on the Home page. It’s a vehicle for putting in front of anyone who’ll listen my musical choices, in the form of playlists complemented by my written commentaries. The music comes courtesy of the streaming service Spotify, to which it follows you will need a subscription in order to receive the full strength of what the site has to offer.
Like many people, I’ve long enjoyed making mixtapes and CDs of the music I love, or sometimes have just been infatuated with. Spotify, delivering as it does an astonishing quantity of music that can be turned into playlists and made available to fellow users with great ease, brings this pleasurable, harmless, even creative pastime into the twenty-first century, so now I can foist my tastes not just on a few friends but the world at large. Even better, thanks to the modern wonder that is the website, it’s not only the music but even my opinions on it that the world is now being asked to swallow. The only thing preventing a perfect storm is that I haven’t yet found a way of making it compulsory for all.
Why ‘Playlistasartform’, though, I hear you ask? (I have very good hearing.) The answer is implicit in the coinage, the playlists being conceived not as more or less random compilations of favourite things but as something like works of art in their own right. Works of art? That’s pitching it a tad high, I grant you, but makes the point. Not just the choice of music, but in large measure the way things sit together, how one thing follows another, even the pauses in between, are of the essence.
As the Home page also suggests, the site is concerned with the whole spectrum of music, from all times and places. Specifically, it is not restricted to western classical music, an impression likely to be taken from the one edition so far available, and therefore in need of dispelling. Sure enough, I take a bird’s-eye view of music history, in which the present and very recent past loom less large than in the minds of many – let’s face it, most – listeners. But music history goes much wider than the standard classical canon. So if down the line you find playlists being devoted to vintage dubstep, Bollywood filmi classics or early jazz, alongside others on Sibelius, the early music revival, overtone singing, or whatever else, don’t be surprised. Nothing, but nothing, is regarded as off limits. Neither, while I’m at it, will I be having any truck – none whatever – with notions of High and Low Art, or in fact musical snobbery of any sort (and it takes as many forms as there are genres and subgenres of music to be exclusive about). Good and Bad Art, as I judge them, are another matter, though of course not everything has to be art (unhelpful word anyway) and one man’s meat will always be another’s poison. Nothing is off limits, I repeat, but there are certain places I have no plans to visit. Eclectic as my tastes are, to the point of personal inconvenience given how of my life this takes up, I’m not immune to the odd antipathy among my myriad passions. I don’t, for example, expect I’ll be receiving complaints about too many songs from the shows or a surfeit of Andean panpipes in these playlists.
I’d love to be able produce an edition monthly, though as long as I remain in full-time regular work quarterly seems the best I’m likely to manage. Whatever the frequency I will not again be attempting one on the scale of #1, which existed as a Spotify playlist before the idea of the site ever occurred, and then, when I decided to run with it for the first edition, 40-odd tracks and all, became something of a showcase. I’m considering ways of providing interested followers (so far a strictly hypothetical breed, of course) with a more frequent fix without having to turn out quite so much original content, at least until I’m in a better position to do so. One idea would be occasionally to ‘soundtrack’ substantial excerpts from a favourite book, be it Constant Lambert’s Music Ho!, Ted Gioia’s The History of Jazz or John Peel’s Margrave Of The Marshes. Another, reversing the ‘playlist with commentary’ concept completely, would be editions such as one that is simply a discussion of (say) a Bruckner symphony with reference to timings within the various movements, which is all the playlist would comprise. Such options would be relatively easy to deliver between the fully original ones while still being wholly in the spirit of what I’m attempting.
Then again, you might feel quarterly is plenty, thanks. Constructive comments, on this as on the site in general, will always be welcome. Feel free to get in touch.
I’d like to think that the more is put into the playlists by the user, in the way of repeated listening, following up the links, etc., the more will be got out. I do actually delude myself that there may exist a few ideal listeners who, having digested my commentaries, will settle down, all electronic devices turned off and the mind emptied of all clutter, to listen to them right through. If I ever hear that this has happened even once, I will consider the whole thing to have been worthwhile.
Ideal listener or not, I do hope you get something from the site. As Beethoven famously put it (in the incomparably worthier case of his Missa solemnis): “From the heart – may it go to the heart again.”