I associate a lot of personal music with the people and places that band trips have taken me, both as teacher and as student. Although I can certainly recall, for example, listening to Rush’s Vapor Trails as I moved percussion equipment down a particularly steep hill in San Marcos in 2002, it is often the people that were with me on these trips that I remember most vividly. This seems odd to me because listening in these situations necessitates the use of personal media and headphones, which is often, for me, an isolating and almost surreal experience.
Don’t misunderstand - I do enjoy the fidelity of current earbud earphones. If I want to have a focused, nuanced listening to an album, there is probably no better way than to pipe it straight into my skull, but it is impossible to have any kind of conversation with the people around me. Even more disorienting is the schism between what the ears hear and the body feels. My ear often perceives frequencies that I would, under normal circumstances, also feel in my chest or with the hairs on my arms, which creates a feeling of dreamlike disengagement from “regular” perception.
Sometimes this detachment is almost empowering, like I am walking around with a secret that no one else is hip to. This was certainly the case when I popped in the earbuds at Sea World with a dual purpose: to listen to the Beastie Boys’ long-anticipated new release The Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 and to escape the park’s musical mandate. The park's unending and nearly unbearable cross between an unhip instrumental version of Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms and Kenny G’s pentatonic noodling seemed to say nothing more than “welcome, now move on” over and over again.
Although the first listen to any album is rarely forthcoming, The Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 was in no way disappointing, particularly in the immersive environment that personal audio provides. As I meandered through the park watching the activities of all the “normal” people on that pleasant spring afternoon, I was simultaneously engulfed in a seemingly cavernous auditory space circumscribed by humming bass, distorted vocals, and reverb-drenched drum loops. Several tracks brought on a smile, but this one stood out on my initial listen.
In retrospect, this post is probably more about my listening practices than the album itself, but I think that personal music players create a particularly unique listening experience that is worth the diversion. I reserve the right to come back to The Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 in the near future once it has simmered a bit. For now, it will undoubtedly satisfy my craving for some new hip-hop.