Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a weekend with an old friend who cares about music as much as I do. That fact has been a bond between us for more than 50 years. Over time, our respective tastes in music have evolved in different directions, but our reunions are still occasions for lengthy and focused listening sessions. I love these get-togethers. But I mostly tailor my selections to genres in my friend's comfort zone, in deference to the fact that his eyes would glaze over if I didn't. So in one sense there is a feeling of mild isolation for me. But this is outweighed by the camaraderie inherent in listening together, even at the expense of sharing the music I currently find most interesting. My friend is likewise deferential in the music he chooses for our sessions. Now, I wasn't always this regardful and used to visit with my car's trunk full of LPs, with which I would pretty much dominate the turntable if given the chance. But, in those days, our youthful musical horizons were relatively circumscribed and since my friend's musical tastes corresponded pretty closely to my own, I'd like to think these experiences weren't too jarring for him. Nowadays, we both seem to recognize the need to subordinate our respective preferences to the act of experiencing music together.
This seems to run counter to the manner in which most music is consumed in the 21st Century. Whereas, the way a person experienced music used to be mostly communal in nature (the concert hall, pianos in the parlor, brass bands in the park, fiddle/banjo sessions on the porch, etc.), now most listening occurs with earbuds in place-a solitary experience. On the positive side of the ledger, the sheer amount of recorded music easily available to a consumer with internet access is staggering (and considerably more portable than LPs). On a less positive note, if this practice strengthens bonds of community, they are most likely only the online variety (sharing via Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and lack the immediacy of simultaneous, in person, shared experience. For that, I guess we are left with live music. Or, listening to recorded music, sans earphones, with friends, even if you don't quite see eye to eye on the playlist.