On The Pleasure of Binge Listening (or Bring on the Next Box Set)


I know binge watching is the thing but frankly I’m starting to think that these televisual serialisations are all the same plot in different costumes i.e variations on politics – sex – politics – sex, or in the case of the more violent plots politics – violence (death) – sex – politics – violence (death)- sex.

For real variety and to a certain extent more portability and ease to do during children’s waking hours I prefer binge listening.

Initially this was spurred by the year of listening to a string quartet everyday but now it is Box Sets.

The CD is dying but it hasn’t yet died like video. It seems the (old fashioned) recording companies just keep pouring out more of these sets each year. I’ve churned through the Decca Sound, Mercury Living Presence (x2), Complete Leonard Bernstein, Miles Davis (seriously every year they discover a new vault of lost recordings), Henze, Jacqueline Du Pre, The Beaux Arts Trio, 100 Great Symphonies, and so on. Then there are the cycles one can’t listen to enough versions of: complete symphony cycles of Mahler, Shostakovich and Beethoven, complete string quartet cycles of Beethoven, Bartok and Shostakovich, complete Wagner operas, the Bach cello suites……and these are just the standard repertoire.

The best thing I like about binge approach is to choose a style of music and then work through it chronologically from earliest to most recent to hear how the genre evolves. This is a great way to start working out how the music works. You start hearing references in more recent music to older music.

The other thing I like is discovering the little known gems, not just special recordings, but less loved pieces and composers. This is especially good for modern composers who occasionally pop-up in these sets. I take their names then plug them into search on Spotify and iTunes and see what similar stuff comes up. The different services give very different results and categorise their music very differently so it can require a bit of creativity with the seraches.

Anyway, get into binge listening….I’ve got to wind this up to start on the Martha Argerich Box Set.

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