Back in that misty era it was a big event when the Allman Brothers or Gordon Lightfoot or Stevie Wonder or Joni or Jackson released a new record. When Dylan's new records came out, time almost stopped. We savored those sweet moments of listening knowing it would be a long time before we felt like that again. We took some time to fall in love with the music, and sometimes it was a permanent affair. Sitting in the dark, focusing on the music, there was a chance-- just a chance-- the artist had something important to say. Listening could be intimate and fascinating. Most of the lyrics these days aren’t really meant for our full attention. We have no prophets and few real communicators.
Lately I find myself listening to more, less. I might enjoy a new CD once and never come back to it. Who has time to fall in love with music anymore? I know I’ve liked a few CDs enough to put them in my favorite stack. But then I’m swept downstream so rapidly I can barely recall the artist's name. I want that to change. Yeah, my internal clocks are winding down and everything outside moves so fast I can’t keep up... but really, there’s just too much distraction and very little of it is worthwhile. We lack time for appreciation.
I took a high school elective once called Music Appreciation. We just sat in class and listened, usually to a classical piece by a dead Austrian composer, or an Aaron Copeland treatment of a beautiful folk song. It was a relaxing class. I wonder if they still offer it?
Music is the eternal soundtrack for life, but it’s no longer a focal point of it. The music plays ever so agreeably in the background as we jog, or cook, or plan our days. We catch ourselves every once in a while thinking, “nice tune” and maybe we hum a few bars later on as we stand in line at Starbucks. But we aren’t engaged, really absorbed in listening like we were when there was little else to do. Ah, those dull, ancient times.
I've seen my daughter listen to music through one ear of her headphones, IM her friends, talk on the cell phone at her other ear, and read Harry Potter simultaneously. I can handle a stick of gum and the laundry at the same time. But I asked her once if she ever got together with her friends just to listen to music like we did in the old days. "Well, only if we're going to a concert, but then we like to dance and take stupid pictures with our phones and party..." Not what I was thinking at all.
But now my daughter loves the music circles that my old-head buddies and I still have at the house on occasion. We pick and sing till the wee hours, and it's warm and wonderful. She brings her close friends with her to these gatherings, telling them, "You're gonna LOVE this! This is SO cool!"
I guess I’m hopelessly attached to the way it was. I miss the communal experiences that brought us together. I miss the artists that understood music’s power to hold us in a trance, to break down barriers and inhibitions, to teach us more about us. It's all wallpaper now. There’s 100,000 new tracks waiting for us out there. We can redecorate our profiles in a heartbeat. There's no need for the music circle.
Photo: Clara Bien
this posting copyright 2009 by craig bickhardt