Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Quest for a Quest

A song came on the radio in my car a week or two ago, and I instantly clicked with it. Sirius Radio conveniently told me what it was. Then I forgot about it until I heard it again yesterday:  “Make It To Me” by Manchester Orchestra and Grouplove. 

Last night, I was sitting on my couch and thought, “Oh yeah! That song! I want it! I’ll just pick up my iPhone, which is generally beside me at all times, go the iTunes Store and buy it!”

I went to iTunes. The song wasn’t there.

What??? Not on iTunes?

How first-world-problem-y of me to get all frustrated that I couldn’t buy a song with the push of a few touch-sensitive digital buttons!

Then I Googled “Make It To Me Manchester Orchestra” and found the song on a couple of web sites like Sound Cloud. I had to stream it to hear it. (I recommend you give it a listen... here.)

During my Googling, I found out that this past Saturday, April 20, was Record Store Day. Have you heard of that? Apparently Manchester Orchestra and Grouplove collaborated and recorded “Make It To Me” especially for Record Store Day, and the track was released on 12-inch vinyl on Record Store Day, in record stores only (unless it’s available somewhere else that I do not know of yet). A host of bands had released songs/albums specifically for Record Store Day to promote independent record stores. I think that’s a great idea—as easy as it is to purchase music from iTunes, there is a certain experience associated with the record store that threatens to be lost by the convenience of digital downloads.

All of a sudden, through all of this searching and researching, what was a song that I really liked (I thoroughly enjoyed the interesting, energetic electronic dub-step part that was an exciting surprise, and Andy Hull’s voice is always beautiful to listen to) became a song that I sought after with a strong desire. If I could have purchased the song from iTunes, I probably would have listened to it a few times, rested in the thought that I had it and could listen to it whenever I wanted, could add it to whatever playlists I wanted and could burn it to a CD to listen to in my car if I wanted. I may have even forgotten about it altogether.

However, because I can only listen to it online via YouTube or Sound Cloud—because the song is not 100% available to me—I want it even more. I like it even more. There is a certain air of mystery about the song because it’s something I can’t “have.”

This experience made me realize that nowadays, with our smart phones and all, we can find answers and songs and information—whatever we seek—so quickly and easily that it has taken the fun out of “the hunt.” Finding answers is too easy. The less effort we put in to find something, the less satisfaction and appreciation we feel when we find the answer.

Remember the days before smart phones? Remember hearing a song on the radio before Sirius was there to tell you the artist and title?  Remember waiting and waiting, listening to five more overplayed songs until the DJ came back on the air and wishing that maybe, just maybe, he/she would tell you the name of the song you heard that you loved?

I remember, maybe 10 years ago or more, hearing a song I loved on the radio several times before I found out the name of the song. Every time I heard it, I loved it even more. (The song was called “Like a Criminal” by Sheila Divine—great song.) When I found out the name, had to say it in my head over and over and then write it down on a piece of paper so I wouldn’t forget it. When I had a chance at home, I went to my computer, using, hmmm....I don’t remember—KaZaa Lite? LimeWire?—to download the song and then burn it to a CD (I still have that CD) with a collection of other songs I had sought for in a similar way. I love those CDs. They represent a lot of time and effort—and the satisfaction of a quest completed.

Obviously, to find songs and listen to them today is so easy, and that is often really convenient. However, I do miss the quests. There is nothing more satisfying than searching for something, and in doing so, developing a strong desire for it, and then finding it. In many ways, the Information Age is increasingly denying us of the excitement and adventure of the quest.

“Make It To Me” is a really good song, but what makes it special to me is the fact that Manchester Orchestra and Grouplove have made it a little harder to get—hard enough to remind me of the wonder of the quest.

Now I find myself wondering, How often will I be able to experience the quest for information that is not easily attainable? What can I seek to find out that will be a challenge to find out? How can we enjoy the sense of adventure today in desiring an answer that is hard to obtain but totally worth the effort? How can we provide ways for the next generation to experience the healthy desire for information that is hard to achieve, so they can in turn experience the reward of satisfaction?

Perhaps I have now found myself on a quest for a quest.