Monday, May 15, 2006

Who Chooses Your Music?

In the beginning, all music was religious. After all, there was no other reason for music to exist except to please God — or the gods, in the case of the ancient Greeks. If you wanted music, you went to church. You kinda had to like what music they had there because that’s all there was.

The church  chose your music.

The Renaissance came and went and we were all thusly enlightened. So royalty took over the music industry. Music came out of the churches and went to the castle. If you were a peasant, you may hear something coming over the walls around the moat. But for the most part, musicians were hired by nobility and were thusly at their service.

The king  chose your music.

It pretty much stayed that way for a long time. The masses had some folk music. But the really good stuff was for the wealthy. It wasn’t until the first part of the 20th century that recorded music became available, which finally gave music to the masses. In fact, it wasn’t just available, it was downright ubiquitous. The Muzak Corporation decided that people worked better when they listened to boring music. Thus, they had the honor of seeing their corporate trademark devolve into a generic term for bland, retail music — heard everywhere, including elevators.

Corporations  chose your music.

When rock and roll came around, radio stations learned that they could win the hearts of teenagers by playing their music. Soon, dozens of music formats filled the airwaves. You still couldn’t pick your songs, but at least you could pick your genre. It was now possible to retreat to your car during lunch and tune into whatever you wanted — at least, you could if they were playing it.

Radio stations  chose your music.

Now you can put your entire music into a little box the size of a pack of cards. Two skinny wires can connect your ears to literally thousands of songs for your listening pleasure. You can control what songs to listen to, in what order, and how loud to listen to them. Heck, you can even choose to “shuffle” them (play them randomly) so it sounds like you’re actually listening to radio. But it’s your  radio, the way you  like it.

You  chose your own music.

When people plug into mp3 players, it is often because they want to withdraw from society. They want to create their own little reality inside their heads. Music gives them an opportunity to do that.

It’s ironic that in olden days, the church and the nobility isolated the populous from music. Now that it’s available for mass consumption, people use music to isolate themselves from the rest of the world. The isolated has become the isolator. Have we really made any progress?

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