Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Changing The Elevator Music

A new report from English researchers has basically concluded what I already suspected: Our generation no longer cares very much about its music. Not to say that we don't generally like it; obviously, that much isn't true, or you wouldn't hear everything from Dave Matthews Band to Kanye West blaring through dorm halls. The researchers concluded that the problem here is how impersonal music has become, partially due to the rise of downloading and MP3 players.
"The accessibility of music has meant that it is taken for granted and does not require a deep emotional commitment once associated with music appreciation," said music psychologist Adrian North on Tuesday. [...]They concluded that because of greater accessibility through mass media, music was nowadays seen more as a commodity that is produced, distributed and consumed like any other.

From the perspective of a media scholar (which I'm not, though some of my readers are, Dr. H), music is a commodity, and a very profitable one at that. But as the article mentioned, music used to be a communal experience unlike any other. When the thing about music that makes it so powerful - its ability to communicate beyond words - is diluted, it becomes a passive, casual experience.

Chances are, you have probably listened to music on your computer before. You've also most likely listened to it through headphones. I always felt that headphones could enrich the experience if used correctly, and that's because they allow you to hear every instrument and lyric in clear detail. At that level, you're communicating in a sense with the performers. In a group setting, you experience music with the people near you.

Here's why I don't own an iPod: It's too easy to use one as you walk places (particularly classes), and if I'm just hearing my own brand of elevator music without really listening, the music stops mattering. Music is a very intimate thing for me, and it would be tragic if I no longer had songs that reminded me of old flames or days gone by. Music should become a part of you, and to think that it never does for some people is truly sad. Besides, using iPods and such in public is kind of a barrier to interaction anyway. Have you ever noticed what a huge compliment it is when someone takes their earbuds out to talk to you? It means something because most people don't want to step out of their elevator music.

You know, if people don't really appreciate music anymore, maybe that's how 50 Cent went multi-platinum. Or maybe it's just what it is: A tragedy. Nothing more, nothing less.

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