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  • 9781846146848Book  £15.00

Ben Ratliff

Every Song Ever

The most significant revolution in the recent history of music has to do with listening. We can now listen to nearly anything at any time for free. We can ignore albums, create playlists, and flit instantly across genres and generations, from Bach to Beyoncé, 1980s Detroit techno to 1890s Viennese neo-romanticism.

But somewhere along the way we have handed the impossible job of song-choosing over to online algorithms that relentlessly feed us our favourite meal. Confronted with every song ever, we end up sticking with what we know. If technological advances have the potential to make us more flexible listeners, Every Song Ever suggests how we might channel that power.

A new kind of ‘shuffle’

Through 20 short, stylish chapters, Ben Ratliff proposes 20 new ways to navigate music now that the old genres needn’t restrict us. So instead of chapters on jazz, heavy metal or hip-hop, Ratliff gives us Loudness, Speed, Virtuosity, Density, and other concepts that cut new paths across music. Rich with examples to throw the reader’s listening wide open, Bjork, the Beatles and Miley Cyrus share the page with great unknowns from around the globe, with a diverse playlist closing each chapter.

A new kind of criticism

While music criticism has historically focused on the musician's intent, Ratliff focuses on the experience of us the listener. From the San Diego oceanographer who compiled a mixtape of one-note guitar solos, to the obsessive fans given their own recording platform at every Grateful Dead gig, Ratliff reminds us why listening matters. Combining cultural history, close readings of lyrics and evocative descriptions of music, Every Song Ever is the work of an adventurous listener and sensitive writer.