Here's a piece of Sunday reading (a story on whatever happened to the audiophile) and listening (a sparkling solo recital by Canadian pianist Jon Kimura Parker).
If you open both windows at the same time, reading one while listening, you are about to experience the music like most people do, these days.
Here's a passage from yesterday's National Public Radio article:
Listening to music used to be a plop-down, stay-still event. Now it's something people do while doing something else, like eating while driving or chatting on a phone while walking. The experience of listening to music these days, says Timothy Doyle of the Consumer Electronics Association, is "not unlike personal computing: It's a 24/7 multilocation proposition; people are taking their music with them, and as a whole, the world has changed so that there are simply fewer and fewer 'old school' proponents of sitting down and listening to music."
Cue up the statistics: In 1998, The New York Times estimated that high-end audio sales totaled approximately $500 million a year. In 2010, the CEA says, sales were around $200 million.
The article doesn't stray from its audiophile focus. But, as I was reading, the question that popped up in my mind was: Was does it mean for us and for our culture when we disengage from music?
Music was born and is practiced in many cultures as a way of releasing a range of human emotion, from jubliation to coping with loss. Alone or in concert, the music is being created or danced to or listened to as a single-focus activity.
Anyone living in a digital culture can carry a mix an ever-shifting soundtrack of musical styles as they shave, microwave fettucine alfredo, drive, take cash from an ATM, order a latte, jog, or tweet. There's no need to worry about the quality of sound beyond basic reproductive fidelity. Style is no issue, nor is a discussion of whether it is sacred or secular.
There are more musical soundwaves reaching more ears as you read this than at any other point in human history. Is that a good thing -- or too much of a good thing?
That said, some musical performances -- and musicians -- compel attention. Jackie Parker is one of those people. Nothing he plays is dull, and he tends to draw from a colourful palette. Check out the concert, which includes Petrouchka, from his set of spectacular home-made piano transcriptions of Stravinsky's ballets.