We listen to music in only two dimensions.  


In a perfect world, my ideal way to listen to music would be as such:

In a comfortable chair, I would be surrounded by the music. The sound of the drums would be behind me. The bass would be below me, perhaps even within me. Vocals would be directed at me. Guitars would start towards the side of me, perhaps even dancing above me, should the mood fit.

Sounds wouldn't just fade in and out. I want a sense of distance. I want the haunting piano of A Perfect Circle's Imagine to be far away on the horizon. In RATM's Freedom, I want Zack de la Rocha whispering into my ear that "Anger is a Gift". And when Dave Matthews duels Boyd Tinsley in Watchtower, I want to hear them circling around me.

The technology that currently exists could quite easily handle these requests. With home theaters becoming increasingly popular/cheaper, the average household will soon have enough speakers to simulate REAL surround sound. Being able to "feel" sound can easily be simulated too, without the need of turning the volume all the way up. If bands wanted to make three dimensional music, they could.

Sadly, however, there doesn't seem to be any pressing desire to experiment with these ideas. For too long, we've thought of music as being two dimensional: Left-vs-Right and Loud(up)-vs-Soft(down). And heck, as the Loudness War rages on, music is quickly becoming one dimensional.

I suppose technology giveth, and it taketh away. As advances in technology (file compression-->portability) increases the quantity of music that a listener can consume, it is redefining how people listen. And how you listen makes all the difference in the world.

One could argue that the golden age of music took place in the 60's. Back then, the average household had one family TV. Thus, for a television program to be popular, it had to conform to what was considered family-appropriate. Edgy shows didn't exist, much less available to a kid trying to avoid parental supervision.

But music was different. Music could be taken to the basement and listened to on headphones. It could be shared among friends; there were no time restrictions as to WHEN it could be listened to. A culture was cultivated through music, and hooked a generation that longed to be apart of something......something different than other mediums could provide.

Today, there are many more things competing for that niche market. Every kid has a TV in their own room, in addition to a computer, video game system, and smart phone. By plugging in, kids are easier to unplug from the "mainstream", whatever that might currently entail. Since music no longer needs to be the torchbearer for the edgy culture, it has faded into a commercial pop. But it wasn't just the greedy record labels that created this mess, it's the technology driving the industry as well.

Whether or not music is "dead" is up for debate. The current technology definitely makes it easier to discover new music. The underground tape-trading scene has now been replaced with a click of the mouse. Programs exist that can accurately "suggest" new music based on your current tastes. These are all great things, and without them, there would have been a lot of bands that I would have missed on the way up. But the culture of music is gone. My generation doesn't have the bands that define us. We have no flag bearer. We have no Bob Dylan. And you begin to wonder if we'll ever get back to a place where that will change.

This entry was posted on Friday, May 01, 2009 at Friday, May 01, 2009 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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