Play On

XMMSWhen I’m listening to music at home, it’s almost always on the dedicated computer that’s connected to a proper hi-fi amp and speakers. It’s getting a bit long in the tooth now, and quite low-powered, but it’s fine for playing music with XMMS, software which is also somewhat ancient and primitive, but it does exactly what I need. And nothing else.

I’ve tried several of the popular alternatives which are supposed to be a “new generation”  compared to XMMS, but they all are fat and ugly, in a software sense. Actually, ugly in a visual sense too. And they all do things like “managing” your “library” of music, and I don’t know what that’s supposed to be for. I have music on my computer and I want to hear it – OK?

XMMS may be old, but it does have a plugin that connects to last.fm and uploads the detais of every track I play. (You can see the results at http://www.last.fm/user/RecycledAlien, if you didn’t know that already.) Since creating the account there (I did have an earlier one) on 29th January 2008, I’ve logged 39,525 plays. That’s almost exacty sixty a day. If you guessed that an average track time was a pop-tastic three minutes and twenty seconds (averaging between a frantic 45 seconds from Melt Banana and 20 minutes of Tortoise), it means I listen to about three and a half hours of music a day. And that doesn’t count, say, another half hour a day in the car that last.fm doesn’t know about.

And you know, actually, it’s too much. I’m not saying that listening to music is bad, of course not, it’s practically the whole point of my life. But I do know for sure that when I’m listening to other people’s music, I’m not writing my own, and I’m not practising guitar or bass. (Well, the latter is not totally true, since I do try to play along on occasion. Putting an acoustic bass guitar in the living room was a great idea.)

With any addiction, you can either go cold turkey or try to cut down. As it happens, I chanced to hear part of an item on Radio 3, which I guess may have been to do with the infamous Mr. Drummond’s No Music Day where the presenter had asked listeners to get in touch about relevant experiences, and one e-mailed to say that he had spent nine months listening to no other music while working on his own. Too drastic for me, but how about, maybe, one day a week?

Well, I did it on Wednesday. Almost successfully — the only slip was when I jumped in the car to go up to the Post Office (I should have walked or cycled; it’s only two miles) and the car player was two minutes into Breakdown by Colourbox before I realised. You could verify the gap in my last.fm stats, but it’s too easy to fake to be good evidence. I could just disconnect the computer from the network for a day, for example.

In fact, that’s exactly what happened the following day, when high winds damaged the little wire that connects me to the rest of the world. I couldn’t even make phone calls on it, never mind Internet. But the very wonderful BT (whom I used to work for) seem to have got it fixed. Not that a day without Internet was a totally bad thing. I should do it, maybe once a week. Break the addiction.

So that’s No Music on Wednesdays, No Internet on Thursdays, and, oh, I don’t know, No Unhealthy Food on Tuesdays. What do you think?

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