Longform Editions is the Sydney label that wants to change how you engage with music
Musician, educator and pioneer of the deep listening movement, Pauline Oliveros once said “how people experience music may be more important than the processes and ideas.” The concept of deep listening was, for Oliveros, comparable to John Berger’s treatise on visual awareness and ways of seeing art.
Taking this idea as a departure point, Australian label owner and broadcaster Andrew Khedoori set up Longform Editions in 2018 to provide an alternative listening platform; sort of like a virtual, sonic manifestation of an art gallery, enabling audiences to disconnect from the noise of the web and engage with music in a more focused and considered way.
An antidote to dynamic, quantitative and reactive streaming platforms like Spotify which use multi-layered techniques, networks, vectors and equations to curate your listening experience, Khedoori wanted to create a digital space where everything was stripped back, slowed down and steeped with meaning. Longform Editions is a more human experience, that reminds you where the music comes from and why it’s being made. A purely digital platform, Longform Editions isn’t turning its back on progress, on the contrary, it’s simply taking you down another path.
We speak to the founder of Longform Editions, Andrew Khedoori, about the importance of reclaiming time, focus and – crucially – musical discovery.
Internet activist Eli Pariser warns about the ‘filter bubble’; a sort of digital echo chamber of intellectual and cultural isolation resulting from algorithmic utility of search habits and location. Are we in danger of suffering from musical filter bubbles? What’s different about Longform Editions?
As a Music Director for a radio station in Sydney, I do a lot of listening for work, and of course, for pleasure. In the era of streaming services, I noticed the way I approached music in both capacities had changed somewhat, and detrimentally so. I found myself seeking out music and compositions in my downtime that were longer, slower to unfold and nuanced in tone. These sounds weren’t new to me as such, but I found that longer works would put me in a different zone and I came to value them very much in terms of space and focus.
As far as streaming services go, sure you can check out lots of different music easily. People tell you they’ve heard a cool song or discovered a new artist, but I’m not sure how much we actually listen, especially to a whole piece of work or entire album. Longform Editions came about with this thinking in mind, looking to offer a dedicated space for people to turn to if they’re looking for respite from the blur of the everyday through music and discover some new sounds and artists who can offer that.
At the same time my thoughts around listening was unfolding, the podcast series by Damon Krukowski ‘Ways of Hearing’ had been released and I found this incredibly inspirational in aligning with my thinking.
It’s a reclamation of sorts – a reclamation of time, space and focus that’s really valuable. Algorithms can really only approximate and narrow the experience of music, and streaming services also have a business model to attend to, so certain types of music aren’t given much prominence. From my time in radio working with the deep and vast knowledge and passion of all the presenters over the years, nothing beats true, human curation when it comes to real discovery.
Do you think the value of music has been changed and/or diminished by digital consumption?
When discussions around the value of music take place, they often circle around money, and of course the majority of artists – especially the types of artists taking part in Longform Editions – aren’t generally making much from streaming services. Music is an art form that’s most closely linked to commodification and consumption because of its portability. It’s the industry that surrounds music that changes the way we talk about it as opposed to other forms of art.
Tying this in with digital consumption, success is now often measured by the industry at large by the amount of streams a track has had. The industry used to measure success in sales, but the business model of streaming services removes the active purchasing of music. You can passively stream something and move on, so even if an artist gets millions of streams, what kind of success is that really?
Digital consumption doesn’t often enter into the artistic value of music and the work artists are doing. The more old-school record sales discussion tied that in more often, and even if that came down to being another mere marketing tool, at least it framed what people were listening to, to some extent. If you are interested in taking the time to engage with the music on Longform Editions, there’s a chance you’ll engage with it as a piece of art in the same way you might a painting or a sculpture. Even if you have the music on in the background, the nature and length of it may allow for that kind of absorption.
How did you decide upon the amount of music on offer each month and the length of time each piece should, or usually plays for?
We’re releasing four pieces every two months, and that just felt about right by way of substance, volume and what a typical follower might be up for in terms of taking it all in. In any case, four pieces in any set can make things diverse enough that people can take what they want with each new edition. We suggest to artists that around 20 minutes is a roundabout time for pieces to surround the ideals behind Longform Editions, but some have come in under and some way over. We don’t want to be overly prescriptive but some reference points are a good place to start.
Do you think long-form pieces should follow any particular style? Does fast-paced and/or more complex music belong in the deep-listening space?
A lot of talk around Longform Editions so far is about the idea of slowing down – that’s a big part of it, but so is our approach to listening. Some of the artists’ pieces don’t conform to an ambient or drone style that you might typically expect. Nozomu Matsumoto’s piece Phonocentrism is a wild but precisely-cut collage of styles and feelings that he describes as ‘an environmental forecast for streaming’. It works as a kind of sonic commentary on the way we listen to music, more than an approach to deep listening. To me, it’s a fascinating listen that demands the same kind of patience and focus that you may use to get the most out of a slower, more measured piece. We’re keen for artists not to simply ape the greats like Pauline Oliveros or Elian Radigue but offer their own interpretations of what it means to listen more deeply, with more awareness. I’m particularly keen to get a techno-oriented piece – it’s come a long way from the dancefloor to be a way more cerebral experience, of course, and it’d be great to get an extended exploration of that.
Can you talk about the aesthetic of the site and cover art for each release and how it relates to the concept?
The artwork for each piece is made using specially designed typography by Mark Gowing which simply spells out the title and artist or each. Considering the volume of the project, this is a way to tie everything together as well as giving Longform Editions a visual identity and presence. Our site also has visual accompaniment for each piece. For all pieces in 2018 we filmed oblique scenes and layered the designs over the top for something we hoped created an aligned meditative effect to the music itself. For 2019, we have created a digital program that has the letters forming our current typography set move in response to the music. This was a lot of fun to do and think it’s quite mesmerising!