In a brilliant essay in The Atlantic Nicholas Carr wrote about the effects of screen-reading on our brain and the changes to our media consumption through web-based technologies. Carr received a lot of approving feedback on his article, many admitted having problems to read deeply, to focus the concentration „ necessary to wrestle any text longer than a paragraph or more intellectually demanding than a TV listing“. The collection of search engines, news feeds and social tools encourages us to link to, follow and read only that which we can easily assimilate. It seems that the exploration incentives of internet use (finding new information) is far stronger than the incentive for reflecting and exploiting synthesized information in order to come up with fresh ideas. The same might be true to blogging: it can be corrosive and we might loose a sense of quietness and depth in our literary and intellectual and spiritual lives.
How does this apply to music, do we need more deep listening as well? I have to admit that my attention span listening to unknown music has decreased in recent years, I easily get impatient if some music does not attract me in the first place, I often just don’t give it the time to develop and make its point. Sometimes, on a day off with a lot of time for random listening to demo CDs or downloaded stray MP3s, I discover music that I really like but had dismissed on first hearing. It seemed that information overload and time pressure just didn’t opened my inner ear enough to appreciate the music that I was exposed to. On the other hand I also have the strong feeling that a lot of music on the net – and I’m talking about more experimental music from the fringes, the underground sound art mushrooming in the niches of net labels, you tube and the likes – is brought out without much editorial time, has a cursory character or just lacks a compositional statement. Most digital music (especially drone music, not to speak of the many permuatations of the techno and house genre), I feel, gets historic only through the type of sound processing software that was used, the musicians/composers assemble snippets of a stream of ubiquitous audio without historic reference. It is some kind of pancake music, spread wide and thin, a permanent nervous aural flickering of the net. Is this what Jacques Attali recently predicted: the work (the concept of a closed composed structure of organized sound) will die soon as the music industry is disintegrating? I have no answer, but I’ll try to listen, as deep as possible.