Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Active vs. Passive (vs. Braindead?)

Wow, this quote from Stravinsky which I found on yet another excellent classical music blog (just kill me now) about the downside of radio and phonograph records seems like it could've been written yesterday about the world of instantly downloadable mp3s.
    [from Stravinsky's autobiography] Today anyone, living no matter where, has only to turn a knob or put on a record to hear what he likes. Indeed it is in just this incredible facility, this lack of necessity for any effort, that the evil of this so-called progress lies. For in music, more than in any other branch of art, understanding is given only to those who make an active effort. Passive receptivity is not enough. To listen to certain combinations of sound and automatically become accustomed to them does not necessarily imply that they have been heard and understood. For one can listen without hearing, just as one can look without seeing. The absence of active effort and the liking acquired for this facility make for laziness. [Go here for more.]

So here's my "when I was a young, I had to walk 30 miles in the snow . . . " take on things. Obviously I don't remember a world in which there was no radio or recording industry, but I do remember living in a small town in Arkansas where there were probably no more than 10 classical records for sale. Part of the joy of falling in love with music was the excitement of browsing through records (reading the liner notes right there on the back cover) when I was lucky enough to get to a real record store out of town. Of course, if someone had offered me the opportunity to hop onto iTunes and have that huge catalog (exponentially larger than what I could find in the record stores I got to) available instantaneously in not-so-easily scratched form, my hair would have surely combusted spontaneously. But the ol' geezer truth is that there was something important about having to seek that music out and valuing those opportunities so deeply. I'm not ashamed to say that I treasured the 500 or so records I collected as objects as well as for the music they contained and I suspect my connection with the music was furthered by that pride of ownership. Don't get me wrong, I would never go back to the LP days (nor would I return to south Arkansas), but I suspect the current generation of students is missing out on something by having everything so easy to get to. In my limited experience with students, they don't seem to be taking advantage of it. OK, I'm sounding really old so I'm just going to get off this high horse right now and take in a little YouTube.

2 comments:

Ley said...

Can you be passive while playing on multiple synthesizers at one time?

Michael Monroe said...

If there are enough,um, mind-altering substances involved, the answer is yes. (So I assume.)