Specimen Day

@ Hopscotch Coffee, Winchester, VA

This is a collection of observations made whilst at a coffee shop.


Listening to George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass which is blaring through shop.

I was intrigued to learn from the store owner that he was playing the “deluxe version”.

Merriam-Webster defines ‘deluxe’ as “notably luxurious or elegant”. With multiple outtakes and extra songs sprinkled in, the listening was far from  streamlined elegance. It is already a long album so it caught me off guard.

Multiple times I wondered if we were listening to the same record or another one entirely. Outtakes made me double take, recalling the same song played a while ago.

Enjoyable? Yes. Disorienting? Yes.

The ‘deluxe’ of a deluxe album is more akin to Baroque elegance. Etymologically,  ‘baroque’ stems from ‘barrueco’, meaning a rough or imperfect pearl in Spanish.  Deluxe albums work like Baroque architecture or music: dramatically ornamented to borderline excess.

Maybe that is what deluxe means in such a context.

—–

Talked with the shop owner about the outtakes one would find in such deluxe versions. He made a case for how outtakes created a bigger picture of a particular music’s evolution. Used two Phish tunes to highlight this idea (cannot remember them).

First tune: he heard an improvisatory intro to one live ‘outtake’ version of a tune; an idea that Trey Anastasio was noodling with backstage. This idea from the improvisatory is developed and used as the foundation of another tune FIVE YEARS LATER.

Second tune: in various outtakes an instrumental is altered with the addition of lyrics. It becomes another tune entirely, name and all.

Shop owner made a convincing case. Outtakes are a part of the full creative process. How odd to think that the finished album we listen to is just as fragmentary as the outtakes. A deluxe version gives us a wider scope of that process.

Not a complete picture though. Can we ever really?

—–

The act of listening to music playing at a coffee shop.

I was listening to something that my taste did not lead me to, subjecting my taste to the coffee shop owner. His taste is subjected to the taste of George Harrison whose taste is subjected to other people’s taste (producers, musicians, etc).

An organic network of tastes is at work here.

If the owner were just listening to the George Harrison station on Pandora that would unleash even more tastes at work. This especially includes the algorithms at work in selection.

Granting algorithms taste is peculiar. Algorithms might be a fitting analogy to how our taste work  though (the work of Daniel Dennett would be useful in articulating this further). Lest we forget that there are contingencies which glitch these algorithms and make taste anything less than straightforward.

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