Bravery in music & blogging

In life, there are many things about which I am insecure. One area in which I’m trying to be a lot more confident is my taste in music…
I love musicals. Fact.
I’m not averse to quite a lot of classical music. (Except opera – I feel that this is as unlikely to change as my attitude to seafood is.)
Christian soft rock gets played at church, I like singing it, thus I own quite a lot of it.
90’s Indie music will always have a special place in my heart and so will the music of my parents (well, my Dad mostly) – especially Simon & Garfunkel, Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell and the Beatles.
Sometimes, all you want from life is a Celine Dion singalong.

Despite my attempts at confidence, it makes me a little nervous when I let people into my world of music. Attempts to keep my Spotify account ‘respectable’ failed quickly – though I do keep a lot of my playlists hidden from general view, publicly listing only those into which considerable effort has gone. With my CD cases now in boxes, it’s difficult for people to see my ‘real’ music collection as it mostly only exists in my iTunes library – something that generally, isn’t accessible to anyone but me.

So, it was with a sense of trepidation that I recently handed over my iPod, containing my entire iTunes library, to a friend who had been iPod-less for quite some time. It was just a short term loan, prior to them acquiring an iPhone, but I was very conscious that my music taste was about to become very exposed. Thanks to my own iPhone and Spotify account, little by way of music has been added to it in the last year, but I’d kept it purely for the fact that, unlike my phone, it holds my whole collection. I needn’t have worried though – the next time I saw this friend it emerged that they’d been quite impressed with my taste. To quote: “Well, you did have four Blur albums.” (No similar comment was made about the four S Club 7 albums, for example.) [Btw, I used ‘quite’ as a qualifier in the sense that they weren’t that impressed, but somewhat surprised at the number of pleasant discoveries they made.]

Phew. However, there were other issues that I hadn’t fully considered…

Firstly, exposing your library of albums is one thing, but playlists are another. I know for a fact that I am not the only person in the world to create playlists for specific situations – I’m not talking car journeys or parties, I’m talking emotional turmoil moments. [How do I know I’m not alone? Because I was once given a copy of a mix-tape a friend had made as a tribute to some random guy she was mad about – I can but assume that other people do likewise.] It was only after handing over my iPod that I ran through the list of playlists in my head and, sure enough, there was one such item. If I share that it included Breaking Free (of High School Musical fame), Will Young’s Leave Right Now and the Destiny’s Child classic Survivor, you’ll appreciate just how high calibre it was. [Incidentally, I’m not sure what it is about me, Beyoncé and emotional moments – my current motivational song is Best Thing I Never Had.] *Cringe*

Within minutes of relinquishing the iPod, I had a terrifying realisation. (Yes, more terrifying than possible judgement on musical tastes.) There was a strong possibility that the pod contained tracks with me singing on it. In fact, I already knew that it definitely did – the three albums I’ve recorded were on there. [Just dropping that in there – did you know I’d recorded three albums? Obviously they’re not just me, and you can’t actually hear me on any of it – bar one track on the third album – but I’m on them all the same.] There was also the live concert recording that includes one of my most embarrassing moments. But none of these things were what had terrified me, it was the fear that some of my iPhone ‘voice memos’ were on there.

I’m not sure what most iPhone users use this function for, but in my world it comes in particularly useful at gospel choir rehearsals when you need to record parts for between rehearsals practising. Occasionally, one might want to use it to record an exciting moment at a gig, or an amusing bit of conversation. But the other primary use in my little world is for recording karaoke.

Shameful confession: Sometimes, when I’m all alone in the flat, I play karaoke tracks/YouTube videos and sing along – ok, that in itself is not shameful. What is shameful is that I record myself (on my phone) in order to monitor my progress and analyse my performance. How sad is that?! So, you can imagine my concern that an entire playlist of that dross might have ended up in the wrong hands! Fortunately, those particular tracks hadn’t made it onto the iPod – when I checked there was a recording from the Matthew Morrison gig and assorted bits from summer gospel choir rehearsals – all fairly uncringeworthy.

So that’s got an awful lot out into the open:
I’m not so ashamed of my taste in music, and I’ve divulged two potentially shameful habits that I won’t be ending any time soon. Who needs therapy when you have a blog?

The beautiful things about Jobs

This post has been brewing for a couple of weeks, in fact, I nearly wrote it last night. However, at just before 1am this morning, it suddenly became incredibly apt that I hadn’t written it yet. A post in praise of my brand new shiny toy with a piece of fruit on the front of it deserves publication on the day that Britain woke up to hear that Steve Jobs had died.

There’s no question that Jobs’ creations have changed computing, phones, film and music beyond recognition. (I think to say that he changed the world is possibly a bit of an exaggeration given how much of the world’s population need simpler things to enhance their lives – like food or healthcare.) Being something of a technophobe until recent years, Apple had very little impact upon my life until three and a half years ago. In fact, I went through a phase of deliberately avoiding owning an iPod because of its ubiquity – that ended when a gift enabled the purchase of a beautiful silver music playing device. That year, I needed a new laptop and I toyed with going to the Mac-side, but chickened out and played safe.

Buying an iPhone was always going to happen and sure enough, nearly a year ago (after at least three prophetic iPhone dreams) I succumbed. It may sound ridiculous, but that’s changed my life – I don’t get lost nearly as often as I used to; I can instantly prove myself right (or, occasionally, wrong); and, most importantly, it helps me fall asleep (programmes on iPlayer) or restores my sanity when I have insomnia. Ironically, it was in this last state that I heard the news about Apple’s co-founder – a quick look at Twitter on my iPhone in between attempts to sleep just before 1am showed a tweet from Gizmodo. Within seconds Twitter was ablaze with tributes – including one which noted:
“It’s crazy to think about how many people are sharing the news of Steve Jobs’ death using devices he invented.”

There will be countless tributes printed to Jobs’ undoubted genius, his passion for creating products that were intuitive and were what the public wanted – before they even knew they wanted them. My own personal tribute is the fact that I’m writing this post on a computer that’s the most expensive piece of technology I’ve ever bought, but that I chose to spend more on because I had confidence in it as a brand and a product. (Plus, obviously, I thought it would make me look cooler at college. I’m not sure yet if it does, it seems my typing skills are impressing more people…) 
A friend was visiting when the package arrived – I told her she’d be impressed with the packaging. 
She was.

What can I say? It’s shiny, it’s beautiful, it’s intuitive. By the time I next used a PC 10 days later my brain had switched to Mac-mode and I became frustrated at its inability to be smooth and efficient. (Not making that mistake again, darling Macbook now comes with me on office days.) I’m still getting the hang of it, but fortunately, I seem to be living with a Norwegian techy genius and have plenty of friends who have already crossed over to the ‘dark side’. (There was a Twitter debate last week as to whether it was dark or light, we concluded dark, I think…) I need to make a decision about Office for Mac versus iWork, but I’m currently undecided – Pages is beautiful and I love it, but I can’t help thinking that essays might be easier in Word (thoughts – anyone?). 
Steve Jobs, thank-you. We have much to be grateful to you for (not least the fact that with an iPhone, one need never be bored again) and it’s terribly sad to think of what might have been, had your life not been cut short. 

Shiny new things

1. My new laptop. It’s purple – enough said.

2. itunes 8. The Genius tool – genius.

itunes requires a certain amount of patience/effort. There’s adding in album artwork when it can’t find it; making it aware that compilations are in fact, compilations; adjusting volume levels; sorting out playlists…

Playlists are rather essential when you’ve got a 180GB storage capacity, yet I kind of can’t be arsed to put the effort into creating them.

I basically had four:
“Female Diva Showtunes” [The default playlist for all cleaning/baking activities.]
“Gym” [I believe that may be self-explanatory.]
“Freedom” [I’m not going into what that is here…]
“Worship Tracks” [Again, self-explanatory.]
Plus the handy itunes standard ones, like “purchased”, “recently added” etc.

Now I have Genius I can create playlists at the touch of a button. (Gosh, it’s like Apple marketing are paying me to write this! They’re definitely not, by the way.) Basically, you pick a song, press a button et voila: 25 tracks from your library that are similar to the one you picked.

To test it, I picked The Feeling’s Never Be Lonely and it came up with tracks to go with it. It included some logical choices, like Razorlight and Queen and some slightly more unusual ones, like Damien Rice and Will Young (actually, maybe it just knows me very well!). Overall, a great playlist with minimal effort.

Whilst I’m on the subject of itunes, I’m also very happy that my external hard drive succeeded in backing up my library complete with song stats and my top 25 tracks. It was very important to me to keep that – I’ve worked hard at making it look respectable as it’s ocassionally the focus of a competition!

And on the subject of other new things, I like new facebook too! Yes, it took a while to get used to, but it’s so much more aesthetically pleasing than the old one.

Change is good, embrace it!

Sometimes (like today) I feel like this:

From this week’s Postsecret.

In actual fact, shuffle’s one of the functions I’m still trying to get to grips with on my lovely ipod. Sometimes it’s just too spontaneous for my liking.

Succumbing to materialism

For some unexplained reason I’ve always had an issue with products that are omnipresent and/or over-advertised. It’s the main reason why I’ve not bought Pantene hair products despite regularly rotating through most of the other brands on the market.

No product typified this rationale more than the ubiquitous ipod…itunes…iphone…anything with an “i” in front of it. [Noteable exception being the BBC iplayer.]

Sure, it was exciting enough when it first appeared but for years it was out of my price range & I had no desire to commit to a seemingly restrictive music format and library. I stayed loyal to my generic mp3 player and looked down upon all the Apple junkies.

I had a dramatic change of heart last month when I used itunes for the first time. The only reason I went on there was because it was the only place I could buy a friend’s EP. All of a sudden there was an online store that remembered my credit details & seemingly had any track I could think of.

Then I realised how cheap ipods had become, how shiny the new silver classic was, how big the storage capacity was…I nearly justified to myself that once my current 2gb player died, I’d replace it with an ipod. Then my mother went and gave me a particularly generous & unexpected cash gift – so I was all set.

[Annoyingly, at the same time as this happened a good friend made a similar decision and being a quick-thinking male, bought one immediately. I on the other hand, waited till after my holiday and had to wait a week for it to arrive from Amazon.]

It arrived at my office today in a lovely compact little box – no excessive packaging – and looking lovely. I’m now on a mission to find the perfect clear skin for it to keep it nice & shiny.

Jeez…today’s probably been my geekiest day ever!