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Tuesday, 12 September 2006

The importance of scarcity

I have an idea for an article which I am going to write. The title is "Being overwhelmed with musical choice - the importance of scarcity" and it will be about the dilemma created by the digital age. Thanks to the internet and digital files, there is more choice than we have ever experienced. This seems like an incredible opportunity. All that music, all those podcasts to listen to, all those audio books, all those text files.

But the down-side of all this is that we reach saturation point where it is no longer possible to take in everything that we collect. Look at the total time-span of all the material loaded onto the mp3 player and ask yourself whether you really do have the time to listen to everything that is on it.

The result of all this is that music and literature become disposable. I remember back in the 70s and 80s buying a vinyl record every so often and making a real commitment to listen to it and absorb it, get to know it. Now there are so many new albums being released every week. This democracy is great, but it does mean that only the truly and incredibly special gets through to my ears.

The resulting feeling reminds me of the feeling I used to get as a teenager late on a Saturday after I had been listening to the radio for a whole day and was just beyond saturation point, jaded and in desperate need of silence.

2 comments:

Sid said...

Silence is good. As someone who listens to a lot of music in the course of seven days, I've come to value the hour or two each day in which the only sound is that of the street outside. It's obvious but in order to keep on top of all the music that comes our way, silence acts like a limbering up exercise.

As for your other point about being overwhelmed, there are many dusty slots on my shelves, CDs that haven't been listened to in years. I try and introduce some random methods into picking albums to listen to. That sometimes helps you rediscover things you'd forgotten you'd had. However, it's a fact of life that folks like us do have too much choice and too many albums. It's a sickness and we sufferers are legion.

Stuart said...

Hi Sid

Good to hear from you. Thanks for the comment - very perceptive.

I too love the sound of silence - I guess in the blog post I was talking about that moment which too much listening causes which is like eating too much chocolate.

Over this last weekend I did a random selection of CDs to listen to in the car, and came across CDs that I haven't heard in ages. What a great idea. I'm listening to Rory Gallagher for the first time in ages.