On The Pleasure of Overhearing One's Neighbors

As I write this, I should be doing something more productive, socio-economic wise. I’m sitting in one of the generously comfortable Aeron chairs at the New York Library for the Performing Arts, listening to someone else’s music . . . I had come to do a number of things; escape from my unheated apartment (more Bohemian than I need right now), make some sounds, read some ‘professional literature,’ and continuing delving into the iPhone SDK.

That last is on my desktop, and after looking into a few paragraphs of code, I felt I needed a little distraction. I have only a small selection of rather specialized music on my laptop, so I thought I’d check out an intriguing shared library, from some generous spirit within 50 or so feet of me, labelled ‘classical music.’ Oh . . . joy.

I don’t know who this person is, but what a library! Where to begin? Right now, I’m listening to Willem Mengleberg’s impassioned, devastating account of the Tchiakovsky “Pathetique” Symphony (I think this is the disc) and manfully trying to resist the temptation to skip over to Andriessen, Brahms, multiple Bruckner symphonies . . . look at all that Boulez! Mahler . . . Rameau! So much Stravinsky and Varese . . . is that the complete works of Webern?!

Who is my phantom DJ, my secret sharer? There’s no way to tell, and I’m not going to try, but I’m intrigued by the kind of person who has this library. With the multiple versions of many symphonies, led by conductors like Mengleberg, Sanderling, Celibadache and Gunter Wand, I think it’s either a scholar or a conducting student from Juilliard. This is very much like what I love about radio, a resource that presents itself for passive sharing, that is absolutely generous to those who take the step to seek it out and tune it in. In at least some small niche, there is a soul mate out there. Just . . . are they leaving?!


I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.


  • Hmm. Who is this aethereal Julliard student and hadn’t s/he better, you know, STEP OFF?

    (I think it’s funny that this post made me jealous; pirate on, my love, for your scratchy old three-chord vinyl wife has many a compensatory charm for her dearth of Mengleberg and for the unheatedness of our home as well.)


  • I don’t understand. Does iTunes have a feature that allows you to post your music library on a wifi network? O brave new world!

    • iTunes allows you to share your library with other computers, and vice versa, over a network or wirelessly. It’s under the application’s preferences. It’s another thing the record companies haven’t been able to come to grips with.

  • That is amazing. So was picking up on this anonymous playlist one of the great experiences of your life? It would have been for me.

Comments are closed.