Friday, August 28, 2015

The Medium & the Message

Recently, my Maxima, faithful companion of almost seventeen years, gave up its mechanical ghost (escaping towards the heavens, like steam from a radiator), and departed this life, hopefully for a better world.
Dialing back the horsepower expectations, for an era and region in which it’s impossible to drive fast anyway, I settled on a sensible Civic, which (as though through influence of its very name) I had always associated with courteous drivers.  Being brand-new, it had various electronic doodads I wouldn’t touch with a barge-pole, but my wife loves them, so I have her that car, and took on the one she bought, used, a few years ago.  Even at that rate, it has a CD drive but no cassette drive (the old Maxima was the other way around).  Which means that the vast library of language tapes and the like, which I constructed piecemeal over years, and (dutifully) used to listen to on the way to work and back, are now obsolescent.  So instead I listen to sacred music -- Thomas Thallis, Palestrina, William Byrd, Josquin des PrĂ©s.  Quite a change.

Coincidentally, at work, I finally acquired a “green” machine with an internet connection, and thus am able to listen to a wider selection from the same genres (focussing on performances by the Hilliard Ensemble, Kings Singers, Thallis Scholars, and such) through headphones  while working on the “grey” machine.

There was a time, some years back, when I listened only to such fare, for religious reasons.  Whereas now, simply because I like the music, it is beautiful and soothing, and does not distract from driving or from Saving American Lives.   It is good for tranquility.  Also, it goes will with driving more slowly, and with extending courtesy to others who wish to merge.


For an earlier meditation on such musical monoculture, try this:

Imagine, indeed, a world in which, for a thousand years, music just was the Goldberg Variations – no other music existed, nor had anyone an idea of composing any new.  The score was thus like the text of the Mass – you didn’t meddle with it. 

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