In this widely linked article Daniel Levitin writes for the New York times on how the iPod, which recently celebrated it’s 10th Birthday, has changed our lives and the way we listen. Here are some choice excerpts in my order:
iPods change the way we “share” music. For one thing, we don’t listen together. So?
Music listening used to be an activity that we did with great ceremony. We’d invite friends over and sit down, pass the album cover around, study the artwork. And when the record started, we’d listen intently together and do nothing else. In short: music listening was deeply social. The iPod has turned music listening into a mostly solitary experience.
Has the iPod brought more music — more rhythm — into our lives?
Yes. The average 12-year-old can hold in her hand more songs than my great-grandfather would have heard in his entire lifetime. Also, digital music is a great democratizing force for musicians. They no longer have to go through the narrow turnstile of record companies.
iPod owners tend to download singles instead of albums. What is the effect of that?
An obvious loss: the album. For decades, artists assembled and sequenced songs to make a larger musical statement, the height of which resulted in concept albums, from Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” to Green Day’s “American Idiot.” Breaking an album up into singles disrupts the artists’ original intention for the work. Also, we tend to lose the opportunity to discover songs that don’t jump out at first.
The album died long before the iPod came along. Musical artists stopped becoming artists and became a business commodity — non-popular music non-withstanding. Half of what was released on many albums wasn’t worth listening to.
The article has interesting thoughts on the lack of, or change in sociability, of listening to music today but the article has less to do with the iPod than it does with his acute understanding of the science of music and the state of popular musical artistry today.
Though far too short, I enjoy reading his ideas, the article is interesting nonetheless.
NYT: Happy Birthday iPod!