music and medium

I’m home. It’s late. Finished my Hell Days, which is what I so cleverly call Mondays and Tuesdays, whereupon I work from ten in the morning until 11:30 at night at two jobs. I’m beat, but before I stretch out and plunge into my latest book (Chris Moore’s “Island Of The Sequined Love Nun”) I want to bring up an interesting thought. It’s a thought I’ve had many times of late, but have been unable to coalesce into something written. Luckily, David Byrne (former front man for the Talking Heads,) has done it for me, and with far more eloquence than I can muster on this particular night.

He ruminates on the subject of music and the way things seem to have come full circle since the advent of the phonograph and John Phillip Sousa’s gloomy proclamation at the time that it would be the death of music. He muses that music has become separated from the medium that delivers it.

Here’s what he says:

Record collectors and consumers often view music as something that is inseparable from the object on which it resides. But if the digital world has taught us anything, it is that the musical information on CDs is anything but inseparable. The two things come apart quite easily, making the value of the delivery object fairly questionable.

So when music as a product, as a consumable object, is subverted and undermined by technology and by its own success, then maybe we have come full circle. Maybe if music is no longer seen as an object, but as pure information, data, sound waves, then the object becomes at best a mere delivery device, and we�re back to viewing music as an experience, albeit still one that other people produce.

He goes on to make a slightly larger point than I had wanted to make, predicting that as our concept of music becomes more fluid, we’re more likely to take part in its creation rather than simply absorb it as passive listeners. But it’s that separation of music from its delivery system that interests me. My concept of collecting and enjoying music has undergone a radical shift this year. My CD collection, which for years had been a point of pride for me, is now gone.


I pulled them from the shelves, crated them, sold them. That’s not to say I gave up on the music. On the contrary, I’ve still got it all. This is what all that music looks like now:

I just store it differently.

David Byrne’s post is worth a read. He’s a smart guy. And funny. (He doesn’t provide a permalink to the post, so the link will quickly become out of date. If you’re gonna check it out, do it sooner than later.

So…uh, yeah. I’m too tired to think of a clever way to end this post except to say, goodnight.

Incidentally, thanks to boingboing for the link.

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