Archive for the ‘Mark Wrathall’ Category

The trouble with easy

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

During the making of the film, Tao and I have spent a lot of time discussing how to develop meaningful practices centered on technological devices.  I think we agree that it should be possible in principle.  I found Steve Almond’s editorial in the LA Times, “The Trouble with Easy Listening” really illuminating in this regard.

Almond describes beautifully an experience that many of us from the vinyl generation can relate to–the experience of having our lives focused around listening to music played on a turntable.  Almond rightly recalls “that listening to music used to be a concerted sonic and emotional event, rather than the backing track to some flashing screen.”

This is for me an intriguing example because, of course, the vinyl LP is itself a very advanced technological artifact and the turntable a technological device.  And yet, far more than the wizardry of modern digital music, the older technology placed demands on us.   These demands had the effect of articulating the world into different places and giving time a distinct rhythm.  My bedroom became a cathedral that housed my record player and LP collection.  The music simply wasn’t available elsewhere.  And the day was broken up into the  transcendent moments when I could listen to music, and the more mundane remainder of the day when I had to attend to schoolwork or chores.  Almond nails it when he observes: “Look, there’s no question that technology has made music cheaper and more accessible. But I wonder if it hasn’t been made less sacred.”

So could it be that one key to gaining a meaningful relation to technology consists in finding and embracing those points where the technology is incomplete, and thus still exerts friction on our practices?


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