Posts from September, 2008:

Music Everywhere

· Posted by Joshua in Arts

I am wearing headphones. Music is playing in my ears. The track is “Far East Sweet” by The Bruces, but that isn’t important. After all, there are a few thousand tracks on my mp3 player. Whenever I’m in the mood for some music, I can just scroll through the choices. It doesn’t matter who I want to listen to: Bob Wills, Queen, Devotchka, the Packway Handle Band—wherever I go, they’re all ready and waiting in my coat pocket.

My situation is hardly unusual. It seems there is a wealth of music waiting at everyone’s fingertips today. This isn’t just because of mp3 players. There are also televisions, computers, car stereos, cell phones, and the ubiquitous speakers in malls, restaurants, and department stores. Music is so common now as to be nearly inescapable. From the moment we wake up to the melody of an alarm clock until the moment we turn off the TV or stereo before bed, we find ourselves working, studying, playing, driving, dining, shopping, and even exercising to a soundtrack that almost never completely fades.

This hyper-abundance of music is a remarkably new phenomenon. Most of the music formats people are familiar with today didn’t exist a few decades ago. The ability to record and replay music itself wasn’t realized until 1877, when Thomas Edison invented the first practical phonograph. Before this invention, it was impossible to duplicate a musical performance. Every musical rendition was unique, and the availability of a particular performance was limited to those people who inhabited the same time and place as the performers.

The advent of recording technology changed this by enabling people to duplicate individual performances as often as they wanted, so long as they had a copy of a recording and the equipment needed to play it. In other words, musical performances were no longer limited to a unique time and place, but were instead limited to technological availability. As technology has improved over the last century, both sound recordings and the devices that play them have become inexpensive and highly portable. This has allowed sound recording technology to proliferate widely, ensuring that recorded music music is are now available to virtually everyone, anywhere and anytime.

Our age of unprecedented musical abundance has led to many changes in the way people use, appreciate, and value music.

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Walking Among A Crowd

· Posted by Joshua in Miscellany

A Crowd of Walking Stick Figures

I’m walking, slowly, on a campus sidewalk. Around me, others are walking too. They are walking faster than I am, not swiftly, but steadily passing me as they go hither and thither about their days. There are many of them, and most of them are moving together, as one. They flow down the sidewalk together as if a liquid, occasionally damming up behind an obstacle before finally funneling through doors and filtering into their countless destinations. I am only a stone in their river, and as they wash past me on all sides, I too am prodded slowly forward along their course.

I begin to walk faster, until I, too, am one with the liquid mass. It is a new world. At my own pace I had been but one among many, but now we all walk together, a thousand chattering friends in the great hall under the sky. Our conversations come with us as we go; we share tales of the day thus far and make plans for the night to come. We smile and joke and laugh, and we become oblivious to all of our surroundings. It is almost as if we, the walking, were still, and the world was moving briskly beneath our feet.

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