Celebrity deaths don’t usually move me since my connection with any famous artist that I admire is primarily through their art, which survives their death. The death of David Bowie, however, has had an effect on me that is as unusual and unique as the man himself. I can’t help but think this has every bit to do with the way he died – a process he transformed into a work of art itself – as it does with the undeniable effect his music has had on me over the years. Everybody by now is aware of the circumstances behind the recording and release of his final album, Blackstar. The fact that an album recorded so late in his musical career can be held up to any of his best albums is an astonishing feat in itself, but that he made the album while knowing, after being diagnosed with cancer, he had only eighteen months left to live is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Thanks to Spotify, the music here at WMCW plays non-stop, even if yours truly happens to be the only one who tunes in to this particular frequency on my own radio station of the mind. Since I began my premium subscription at the start of 2015, I have found no shortage of music to listen to, and I have encountered few bands or albums that Spotify doesn’t have. This would be, on the surface at least, any music lover’s dream. Indeed, I’ve been wishing for this state of unfettered access since the internet has hinted it might be possible. But after more than half a year as a Spotify subscriber, the streaming service has made me more intensely aware of a disconcerting change that has been taking place in my relationship to music for some time.
As a music hound and obsessive seeker of new, heart-pounding sounds in rock and roll (one of the mysteries of the modern world is how musicians continue to come up with new sounds and songs from the same three chords), I’ve always believed that the objective of collecting all these albums (I was never a singles guy) was to build a permanent storage of music that I could get my hands on whenever I wanted, in the event the music becomes obscure or goes out of print. However, over the years I have slowly been disabusing myself of the notion that the music I collect must exist as a physical thing, these days either a vinyl or plastic disc. At a time when nearly any album is available at the click of a button, it doesn’t make much sense to collect plastic discs that cost money, take up space, require shelves and cabinets, or organizational system (trust me, every music geek has one). Enter Spotify, which has essentially halted my music purchasing and downloading in its tracks. Spotify, one of the most popular of the music streaming services that have been cropping up, is like listening to a radio station over the internet, only you’re the programmer, DJ and announcer of your own station. Oh yeah, and no commercials (if you subscribe to the premium service)! I’ve become so enthralled with the possibilities of this technology that I’m embarking on an experiment to see how many purchases and downloads I can eliminate this year.