Monday, 8 January 2018

What is Slow Music?

Slow Music, as with all things scientifically unquantifiable or mathematically unprovable, is subjective, relative and open to interpretation. Do an online search for "slow music" and you will get several suggestions - from literal interpretations referring to musical tempo, slow music as a community enabling form of live entertainment or as an antidote to modern music commercialisation and consumption. We concur with all of those opinions but would like to offer some further thoughts on what slow music is and could possibly be.

Slow Music has much in common with other slow movements and fully supports and advocates a cultural shift towards slowing down life's pace & connecting more meaningfully with others, our surroundings and ourselves. We would like to think slow music makes people reflect on modern living, not shy away from addressing many of the pressing issues of our times and encourages people to come together and make a positive difference.

Admittedly slow music here at The Slow Music Movement largely means a drop in tempo. In this modern world of over stimulation and unrelenting information bombardment we enjoy the mentally soothing sounds and textures of ambient and more relaxed music. Their assistance in helping us to switch off from the stresses of modern living, ability to aid reflection and the sonic joy they provide make them a powerful force.

Maybe it is just part of the ageing process, the knowledge of self and place gained by experience, awareness of the perils of continual growth in a finite world or just largely abandoning those late night parties but we feel less in need of propulsive music these days. Saying that we still like to dance when the stars align and movement to music is a wonderful, liberating, exhilarating experience so there are times we need something a bit faster to throw some shapes to. It certainly won't be pounding techno, commercial EDM or death metal though and we find that dancing to slower music is often a more sensual and communal experience and we highly recommend dancing with each other rather than standing in rows staring at the DJ whilst filming a non experience for the purpose of an enviable status update.

Any form of community building, especially in an autonomous space, even if it a temporary, fleeting one  as happens in dance clubs or concerts with people uniting through communal listening, movement and it's associated joy can only be a good thing and is often a welcome and necessary release from the grind of daily life. We also believe events like this can assist in altering perceptions, encouraging creativity and highlighting the power of collective behaviour - a key component in making the world a better place. So fight for your right to party and don't forget to move those hips to a slower groove.

Slow music is also by our definition not, commercial music. Most commercial music comes from three very large, multi-national companies and as with most big business their overriding concern is to make money. We prefer artists and labels whose first purpose is to make music and who then hope to monetise this art to support themselves and facilitate further musical creations. We want music coming from the heart and done for the love not driven by finance and bonus chasing executives.

Commercial music has to be popular to succeed in it's money making ambitions and we're not adverse to pop music as such. It is a rare talent to be able to write something that appeals to millions of people and as much as we can appreciate good pop music our heart and ears belong to the musical underground. That is where the real art is, a place where musicians and producers can let their minds run free, say what they feel, experiment and create without restriction. Saying that the major labels do also control some great, creative sub labels with a focus on interesting sub genres and also have some of the world's best musicians on their books so we do keep half an eye on what they do and support good music where we find it but slow music, on the whole, lies in the world of independent artists and labels.

Slow music is also about the consumption of music. The world's literature, every film and tv show ever made are available at the click of a few buttons or keys and now there are tens of millions of songs to listen to on your favourite streaming service. It is an impossible amount of music to comprehend let alone even start to listen to despite the promise and excitement of endless possibilities. A tub of chocolate chip is manageable, a free pass in an ice cream factory an altogether proposition.

Here at The Slow Music Movement we encourage a less is more mantra and offer an escape from the tyranny of choice. We believe that listening to a small amount of music intently is more rewarding than flipping through an endless stream of new releases. That is why we adopt a slow approach to slow music recommendations. We propose one release a day to our community and resist the temptation to measure our success by hits, clicks, likes and reposts. Rather than blindly post press releases we keep the recommendations personal, heart felt and to a minimum. Hopefully you trust our judgement, although as music is so subjective, we don't expect you to agree with everything we say. To this end we keep our descriptions to a minimum because the real test is your brain's reactions when those sound waves float into your ear drums. Why read about something that is created to be listened to? Don't believe the hype - trust your own ears.

Slow music is also about active listening. Music is becoming a passive experience as it is increasingly consumed whilst multi-tasking, often staring at a screen, whilst commuting, checking photos, working, exercising, idly messaging friends or sometimes all of those things at once. Rarely is our attention just on the music. Ideally music should be listened to in a dark room with eyes closed so the full focus is on that musical creation. When was the last time you did that, if ever? Try it. Even if you have listened to that track or LP several times the chances are you will be hearing that music in a new light now it has your full attention. We know time is precious though and that the tedium of jogging and road trips are alleviated by a fine music selection but once in a while just close your eyes and take a moment to listen to something properly. Just make sure the hand brake is on.

Slow music is not about format for us here at The Slow Music Movement although there seems to be an assumption that a return to vinyl or cassette should be part of the slow music world. Despite living through the vinyl & CD years before embracing the digital revolution it has always been about the music not the format. Don't believe the hype that vinyl sounds better. For sure it sounds better than a low resolution MP3 but it has limited dynamic range compared to CD or high resolution digital. It has a different sound not a better sound. Just do a blind test on a serious hi-fi system and you will unquestionably hear the difference.

There is also a good argument that digital formats are more environmentally friendly than vinyl and cassette. For instance just imagine the natural resources that go into the production of a piece of vinyl and then the energy to ship that vinyl from the pressing plant to the distributor, from there to the global retail network and then finally to people's home. Then think about the energy used to rotate a heavy vinyl platter and convert that vinyl into sound waves. I don't know the exact figures but I'm guessing it is a lot more than downloading a high resolution digital file once and then playing it on demand or even streaming the same music multiple times from your streaming provider.

We plan to do an article on the energy consumption of the various formats when we can find someone technical enough to do the research project justice but as slow music is also intrinsically linked to the other slow movements then our present guess is that, just on environmental grounds, digital music (that excludes non recyclable CDs) is more "slow music" than vinyl. Embracing slow living & slow music does not always mean going back in time.

We also appreciate that selling merchandise and physical product, especially at live shows, is an important extra revenue stream for many live acts struggling in difficult times for artists but until we complete a well researched paper on the environmental impact of physical music and how those effects can be made carbon neutral I would suggest that you plant a few trees every time you produce, sell or buy a record or tape. In fact when you buy or produce anything!

Slow music is many things to many people and we're not about to start dictating what it is or isn't although we're happy to get the conversation started. Above are a few suggestions and thoughts and we will come back and update them in the future as our thinking develops, as thinking always should. Take from them what you want and if you have any suggestions then don't hesitate to get in touch, we're open to suggestions or even changing our minds if we hear some well reasoned arguments.

Don't forget our daily social media recommendations. No information overload, one recommendation a day, only the good stuff.

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