What do you say about a book where a single chapter moves seamlessly from Bud Powell to Jerry Lee Lewis to Outkast? Or from The Ronettes to The Clash to Duran Duran to Bill Evans to Kanye West to Big Joe Williams? I say, that’s my kind of book. And in Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen to Music in an Age of Plenty, writer Ben Ratliff brings us on a sonic journey to better understand the possibilities of music in our lives, along lines way beyond genre.
I borrowed this book from the library but I am getting the sense — days after finishing it and knowing I need to return it soon — that I might have to buy Ratliff’s book after all. It’s one of those few books about music that I know I am going to want to return to in the future, in appreciation the way that Ratfliff expands our notions of the power of music.
With themed chapters ranging from loud, quiet, density, speed, space, improvisation and community and more, Ratliff’s inquiries are a map on which one can journey into many realms of sound. I found many touchstone tracks here (every chapter ends with a playlist) and many artists I had never heard of. This bridge between the familiar and the unfamiliar is what listeners need, or at least, it’s what I need, as someone who craves variety in my life soundtrack.
Every Song Ever, even with its hyperbolic title, is perfectly suited for this day and age of immense possibilities of music, but also, an age where the sheer volume of musical tracks makes it increasingly more difficult to situate yourself into a transformative listening experience. Ratliffe tries to shows ways we can listen, and be transformed, if only we remove the locks of genre from our scope of vision.
Infinite access … can lead to an atrophy of the desire to seek out new songs ourselves, and a hardening of taste, such that all you want to do is confirm what you already know. But there is possibly something very good, too, about the constant broadcast and the powers of the shuffle and recommendation effect. — Every Song Ever, page 6
Keep on listening, with your ears wide open.
Peace (it sounds right),