Undoubtedly we live in an age of excess. The ongoing global recession may have made some of us cut back in certain areas of our lives and tone down our extravagances a little, but we in the West continue with our decadent lifestyles undeterred. And we have no inclination of giving up on them. And it’s not just in the West where this is true. Developing countries are following suit. The Chinese, frugal by history and instinct, now want to become ‘modern’ by emulating Western countries. Look at what we eat… the humble pizza is now covered with a myriad of toppings when once it used to be just a plain Marguerita. Our sandwiches are now stuffed with so much that the fillings drop out as we munch greedily away; our buildings are clad in expensive imported marble where once it was plain old local stone; weddings have become extravagant exercises in showing-off; mobile phones have become so complicated that it takes weeks and months to master all of their knobs and whistles …. and the music which we listen to now occupies hundreds of gigabytes, either in hand-held devices or in the Cloud.
Does the following article ring any bells with any of you?
“I have hundreds of gigabytes of digital music. Yet I listen to less than one percent of it. Why? Because it’s entirely overwhelming. I have so much, and it’s so intangible, that I may as well not even have it. Don’t get me wrong, I love the convenience of having entire days (weeks, months) worth of listening in my pocket. But scrolling down an endless list of albums just ain’t the same as flipping through a crate of LPs. Cover Flow? Please. Listening to records is an entirely different musical experience. For me, vinyl is more active. More visceral. More mindful. More immersive. I pick the album, admire the cover art, slip it from its sleeve, and play it. And after 20 minutes or so, I turn it over and play the other side. Remember “the other side”? I had forgotten until recently, when I retrieved my record collection from storage and immersed myself in the vintage audio forums online to find the perfect new, old stereo system. To paraphrase DIY hero Mister Jalopy, I don’t like 1970s stereo equipment because it’s old. I like it because it’s better.”
What is said above is purely subjective of course, and we all know just how convenient it is having so many music tracks around us… but in an age of excess just how much music do we actually need in order to lead a more full and enjoyable life? When are manufacturers of music equipment actually going to sit up and listen to what we as consumers actually want rather than to promote something which they are good at producing and which they think that we want?
In our age of excess it’s evidently going to take longer than we think to change our ways, especially when we buy stuff to impress others and which we are told by the advertisers is de riguer, rather than to buy things to please ourselves. Do we really need 13.000 Internet radio stations? And with new innovations such as Bang & Olufsen’s BeoSound 5 media streamer (among other manufacturers’) just how many lifetimes do we individually need in order to listen to the thousands upon thousands of music tracks which we have stored? In our (often) greedy, grabbing and impressionistic societies, sometimes less is more. Progress doesn’t necessarily have to mean excess.