Lately I've been choosing six CD's each night to put in my multi-CD/DVD player at home, and listening to them in Track Shuffle mode. This mode skips randomly from disk to disk and track to track, usually only one track from any given disk is played before moving on to another disk. One night I stacked the deck with four Louis Armstrong CD's from a single great album, The California Concerts, balanced by Alphorn Concertos and trumpet virtuoso Sergei Nakariakov. Another night I had another Nakariakov CD with The Essential Basie, Lionel Hampton, and a BBC Classical magazine CD of the Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Suites. (My daughter requested some ballet music. She decided she liked the Nutcracker and has asked for it several more nights.)
Last night I did not want to watch news for a while, so I put on Booker Little, Les Miserables, The Eagles Greatest Hits Vol. 2, The New York Trumpet Ensemble, and Bryn Terfel.
With the shuffle mode on, I never know what song/movement/piece is going to be next, so I find myself listening more closely to the beginning of each track than I do during normal play. Because of this, I keep from slipping into "background mode," where the music doesn't register consciously with me. The randomness also creates some interesting transitions. Last night a quiet inner movement of a baroque trumpet concerto led to "Stars" from Les Mis, the harpsichord shifting to the synthesizer yet in a similar timbral space and with nearly identical tempi. I have yet to try this experiment with symphonies or sonatas, multi-movement works that are expected to be heard in order for both emotional effect and long-range tonal closure. But the concerto movements did not seem to suffer from being split apart from their herds. The most disconcerting transition was from a little ditty in the Louis Armstrong collection that was intended as an introduction to a bigger work. But the producers put the little introduction on a separate track, so the CD player jumped away after the intro, never fulfilling the promise.
My kids seem to enjoy the eclectic mix of music styles I subject them to. My son starts to dance anytime he hears jazz or rock, my daughter sings along with any vocal music. I certainly won't always listen in such a random manner, but I find it a refreshing change for now.