Since Sunday, set to the philosophical background of Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, I’ve been looking at the evolution of music from the caveman to the hipster. In the epilogue, I kind of ask the question…
I made the mistake of positing my theories on how the way we listen to it now may be destroying the purpose of music to a couple of Millennials and I was immediately in need of a safe space for myself. Defensive much? I’ve taken my theory to Gen-Xers but they couldn’t pay attention because were too busy hating the world and what every other generation has done to it all while trying to make up for how mopey they were in the 1980s. I’ve spoken to aging hippies and Baby-Boomers about this and they totally dug what I was saying man as they added that any music written after 1974 is total crap, and you know, Medicare.
I stood alone on the mountain.
I’ve preached the Gospel of Music so often I have very few friends left, and the few I do have left barely speak to me anymore. I see people wearing Beats headphones and I shudder. I go to people’s houses with whole music streaming systems and I get claustrophobic because my ears think I’m in an elevator listening to corporately approved Muzak.
Music has lost its essence. Or so I fear.
On the other hand, I have records in my collection that were given to me by people who have been gone from my life for decades, and I can pick up those records and listen to them and be connected with every moment in my life 3:38 minutes at a time (for better or worse). I can hear a song that will transport me back to some period in my life I had completely forgot about until those first few chords. Heck, I even still play SongPop with an old friend from high school because she actually knows more songs than I do and I feel like a champ when I beat her.
I wonder, Have I taken this music thing too far?
I was lucky to be alive during the very years people like David Bowie, the Beatles and Elvis Presley were making music. Of all the millennia I could have been deposited in, I was here when the greatest tribal music in all of history was made and was accessible to anyone who wanted to hear it. That is a major blessing of serendipity and I appreciate it deeply.
My entire life is stored on vinyl, tape, mp3, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, WAV and out there on some server bank at Spotify’s headquarters. I can find new music with a keystroke and I can be transported throughout the soundtrack of my life in pretty much any way I choose to do so. I can listen to music anywhere, anytime, in pretty much any fidelity I want to.
I should have no beef then, right?
Yet I still do.
This is not because I’m an incurable malcontent (I am but that’s not the reason). It’s because I feel like maybe there are people out there who are missing out on the magic and power music has brought into my life – all because it’s so goddamned convenient it’s become meaningless. I truly feel the masses are eating Quarter Pounders with Cheese while they let the Kobe beef rot on the counter.
I hope I’m wrong and I hope you’ll point it out if I am. I have hope at times but then I listen to what the dominant technical culture has done to music and I get depressed that my hope is unfounded.
If music is life, and life would be a mistake without music, why let music become just another noise to fill in the blank spots in our brains?
Technology has made the very basics of life so much easier and better. Like air, food and water, music is a basic necessity for a happy and rounded life, but like technology has done to air, food and water, we’ve kind of lost touch with the essence of it all – and I’m not convinced that’s a good thing.
To me, the Monolith deposited by the gods as a means of communicating with this puny human species is not a black rock, but it’s music, and we are a lost tribe without it.