When I was in high school a new product came out that everyone had to have called the Walkman, a portable cassette player. It allowed you to have music wherever you went, but you would only hear what you had already decided you wanted to hear. This eventually gave birth to the iPod, a properly futuristic sounding audio device capable of deciding for you not only what you should hear, but also how many times you should pay for it again.
Call me old-fashioned, but I like natural sounds. Birds in the trees, the hum of whirring chainsaws, the exultant sound of hunter/gatherers in the urban environment eliminating each other over scarce resources. Perhaps the veteran I pass on the corner is onto something when he says, “It all sounds the same…it’s content…no context…”
Of course, I hate the iPod. Where is the album cover, the twelve-by-twelve inches housing the round item with the round hole inside? Where is fidelity: high, low or indifferent? Must we pretend these digital files can simulate the music we love when we know that they can’t?
It’s been said that music is beautiful to everyone, but it’s every man for himself in iPod Nation. Because the technology is so darn fancy, we’re supposed to ignore the intrusion of this sonic wallpaper, designed to blast your every waking moment, to give you just enough of what you want to stop you from listening to anything new.
All content is equal in iPod world. You don’t even have to be cute anymore to be cute in iPod world. How can I be expected to tell the difference between Kreayshawn and the singer from Against Me, when they are both unattractive and sexually ambiguous? That’s what record covers were for.
And besides mine, are there any other tolerable podcasts yet? Why this is considered a new frontier and a reworking of the communications paradigm is a mystery to me, but iPod Nation craves content, 24/7/365 no matter how lame that content might be. The iPod and its offshoots are not progress, but rather a kind of regress. The price we pay for more access to more stuff is weak content overall, and too much detritus to pick through for diamonds in the muck.
Either way, I’m sure you and I will keep stuffing our hard drives with old music. Music made when live performances in front of demanding audiences quickly separated those who were called to perform from those who were actually chosen. By contrast, the current music industry sees live performance as a way to sell a record that has already been made. Untried artists making dodgy recordings in their bedrooms, often with more charm than talent, attract internet-watching media execs who pass this on as our musical culture via the net.
Without an audience to winnow out the garbage, and with multi-national corporations betting millions on meager art and major marketing, much of what is good and potentially profitable never gets heard. Instead, a big load of stinking shit is sent to us via the just barely audible iPod and we are left to pretend it’s our culture. People aren’t any less talented now than they ever were, it’s just that so many more useless performers are taking their shot at internet fame that it just feels that way.
You can help to end the scourge of the iPod with a few simple steps. First cram all of my songs on your iPod, just to make me feel better. Then throw the fucking thing away and buy our goddamn records!