Somewhere along the way we stopped listening.
We watched and listened. Read and listened. Wrote and listened. Played games and listened.
And great music became hidden.
Hidden by the din of loud trains. Hidden in the spectacular visual effects of music videos. Hidden in low-quality formats. Hidden by our inattention.
A lot of art shrinks when exposed to a shifting focus, but music falls hardest.
Our ears are magical because they can completely trick our brain. They can take us to a pacific forest or an african bazaar. But we can go further with music – new places that never existed before.
Musicians use textures, tones, balance and placement to create a new physical and emotional places that never existed before – and our ears are the only way to get there.
All you need is focus, content and equipment.
We bring our own focus, artists create the content but for years we built equipment for portability and convenience instead of magic.
It is what it is and it’s this: Led Zeppelin on a degrading magnetic tape. Elvis Costello compressed to stream over AT&T. Kanye West through $5 earbuds. The Beatles on FM radio. Mumford & Son’s as a lyric video.
We stopped delivering quality worth paying attention to. Quality worth stopping, sitting and listening to. Quality where if you give it your attention, it gives back.
So people stopped paying attention.
Until today. Last week Neil Young and my friends at Pono launched the much anticipated Pono Music, a project I’ve been lucky to contribute to. A project I am glad exists.
It’s the first music I’ve heard outside of a concert or a $30,000 hi-fi system that takes me to new places.
For a tenth the price of a hi-fi system Pono brings fans uncompromised quality. The callouses on the hands of the drums. The pick on the guitar strings. The feeling of the recording room. The silences. The bodies that shape the instruments.
It is quality that makes you stop. And quality that makes you listen.
Many in my generation have never heard quality worth listening to – The content beyond the surface. Not just clarity, but depth. Quality that brings the surprises the artists have hidden inside.
Quality worth listening to.
Of course Pono will be deconstructed by the audiophiles and measured by the techies. The press will analyze the sales and the record companies will evaluate its impact on their bottom line.
But my hope for Pono is it will encourage people to stop and listen. That it will give those that close their eyes and open their ears an enlightening experience with music they have heard a thousand times before.
I hope Pono encourages you to invest in listening – I’m sure it will return.