The life and times of Zack Weinberg.
Saturday, 19 February 2005
# 5:15 PM
reflections after shredding three months' junk mail
# 12:25 AM
So ends the extended project of the past several weeks, to listen to my entire music collection in ascending order of track length. The longest is of course Jethro Tull's forty-five-minute, one-song concept album Thick as a Brick. The next longest three tracks are all orchestral - a Tchaikovsky piece and two by Aaron Copland. After that we have a whole bunch of jazz, some other orchestral numbers, a mysterious probably-live 18-minute version of Where The Streets Have No Name (which normally clocks in at 5:38), and some of Pink Floyd's longer conceptual stuff (notably Shine On You Crazy Diamond). The longest piece of straight-up studio rock is Genesis' Domino, which is really two songs mashed together.
On the other end, eighteen of the shortest twenty tracks in my collection are individual segments of They Might Be Giants' Fingertips collage piece. All of these are shorter than 30 seconds. (The longest segment of Fingertips is just over a minute.) After that, we get lots of the interstitial spoken-word bits from Blind Guardian's Nightfall in Middle Earth (a concept heavy-metal album based directly on the Silmarillion. No, I am not making this up), a bunch of other humorous bits by TMBG, Moxy Fruvous, and similar personages, and a couple of electronica tracks by the Art of Noise. The shortest piece of straight-up studio rock (which is a nasty judgement call) appears to be the title track off Declaration by the Alarm.
The really interesting thing about this project has been the way it reveals the natural working lengths of various musicians. They Might Be Giants appear to be most comfortable at three minutes or shorter, as do other "humor rock" acts like Moxy Fruvous and Tom Lehrer. Interestingly, the Ramones and a handful of Queensrÿche tracks also show up down here, and some Beatles. The three-to-five minute range is the most diverse, with bands as far apart as Suzanne Vega, Rammstein, the Art of Noise, the Alarm, Paul Simon, and Garmarna all rubbing elbows. Up above five minutes, things thin out a bit (it should be mentioned that by track count, more than three-quarters of my music is shorter than five minutes). The bands that like to do complicated instrumental stuff - Brother, Alice in Chains, Counting Crows, Cats Laughing, U2 - are heavily represented up beyond five minutes, and there's lots of electronica (Art of Noise, Juno Reactor, etc) and jazz in the seven to nine minute slot.
Oh, and the band with the widest variance? Jethro Tull. The shortest track of theirs that I have is 1m09.