The music we played during the escape, the music we played in our intimacy, the music we celebrated to, the music of our rebellion, the music we played to feel at home, the music we danced to, the music we used as seduction, the music we played in our heartbreak, the music that played in our grief …
And as you play that record that reminds you of the time you were a teenager at that party, I remember my mum having that song on tape in our rusty car and how much her singing to it drove me crazy. We might have been listening at the same time. We are suddenly closer.
PME-ART’s ‘The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information’ first appeared at Fierce at vintage clothing shop COW on a Saturday afternoon for ‘Bring your own record/Listening Party’, the festival crowd mingling with shoppers. There is an initial reluctance to join in, the pressure of selecting a song and sharing a story becomes apparent.
This hesitation reveals how personal music can be to us and how much of our identity is at stake when we step forward to play a song in public. Furthermore, there’s telling the story to introduce the song, disclosing our most private moments to the crowd. This is an invitation to disclose that which we keep closest to us.
A few brave people begin to take the stage alongside Jacob, Marie and Caroline of PME-ART. We hear of family get-togethers, spontaneous sing-alongs and bittersweet loss. This public sharing is instantly arresting, the music that fills the shop becoming increasingly sharper and more compelling.
We usually feel like the songs we choose to listen to express our feelings, but it’s evident here that music is often what shapes, enhances and articulates our emotional relationships with the external world.
The communion looks a little different on Sunday at arts centre, The Drum. The three DJs are in control and all the music is played by them. We are invited just to sit, listen and absorb. It takes a little time to shift consciousness to the slower, more contemplative pace that the piece demands. It requires those gathered to really listen.
In the YouTube/Spotify universe where we expect flashy visuals and every song present at our fingertips, in a world where recorded music is so often the sound of the background, the gentle fumbling of the record player and clumsiness of the vinyl is charming. The liveness of the performance offers an alternative mode of being together, a difference pace for our communal rhythm.
The power and intrigue of ‘The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information’ lies in two sets of simultaneous tensions. Firstly, the immediate live performance of the DJ and the timeless recorded materiality of the record; the simultaneous presence of the historically suspended voices in the grooves, the past resonances we connect with it and our memory-making in the immediate moment combine to spark a myriad of sensations.
Secondly, there’s the tension between the personal subjectivity of listening to music in the collective environment. Our current standard mode of aesthetic appreciation of music is so often individualistic – with the ubiquitous use of headphones throughout daily life. For most of human existence, however, listening took place in groups – in churches, in clubs, in forests. The juxtaposition in the social experience of joint listing is here explored – can this time together be more than the sum of individual listenings to become a truly collective activity? Can music liquidate individualism to find a common solidarity? Can we be more than a bunch of guys alone at a Hefner concert by raising our voices to sing along together?
Music can give form to emotion, to the heartache, the terror, the loneliness; it can give us an insight into catastrophic situations we often seek to evade. Music can be an isolated and lonely encounter with another world, a disembodied world of beautiful sound …
On that Sunday evening in Birmingham it just brought me to [new/lasting/lost] love …