Immersive Attention

These days I’m really enjoying Longform Editions, a label from Sydney, Australia that only releases longform music, i.e. really long songs. Each release is a single piece of music, ranging from twenty to sixty-plus minutes. The label has a wide genre focus: electronic, folk, jazz, experimental, all united by the same prompt. My personal favorites focus on texture and color, conjure up landscapes and maps, stick to highly specific parameters, or move at a walking pace. They all play with time as the primary musical material, so the music plays with me as a listener. My perception of passing time changes, and so do my expectations for instant gratification or trying to find the ‘point’ to the song. My body slows way down to meet the music on its own unyielding terms. The music isn’t strictly ambient. It’s just slow, and that slowness is immensely interesting.

Andrew Khedoori and Mark Gowing, Longform’s founders, were recent guests on Aquarium Drunkard’s Transmissions podcast (which shares a patient, deeply immersive ethos with the label). They talked about how they envisioned the label as an art gallery that offers space for the musicians to experiment and for listeners to spend some serious time with each piece. And that literal spending of time really fascinates me. Longform is a purely digital label, which means there are no physical products to worry about. For me, streaming’s inherent downside is I can’t interact with the music outside of scrolling and clicking. Everything is ephemeral, so everything can feel sealed off and meaningless. Without the ability to sell physical objects, streaming banks on my attention (note it’s always the quasi-violent goal of ‘capturing’ my attention).

But Longform’s music sidesteps this issue by requiring immersive attention as its price. Because of the long time commitment, I engage with an individual piece on a deeper level. If most of streaming is heading towards shorter and shorter songs and less attention spans, Longform goes the opposite way and makes something bigger, weightier. Immersive attention feels like both an economic model and a more alive way of being. When you’re immersively attuned to the music, you’re bringing your physicality to the experience. I suspect this completes some sort of needed circuit, which is why it feels so good.