Psychologists have various theories about this phenomenon that pervades our society. Some suggest wearing a device that demands our immediate attention makes us feel important. It used to be very rude to interupt somebody when they were speaking, yet now we stop mid-sentence when somebody electronically hails us. There has been a shift in etiquette. Back in the day, a Rolodex was the symbol of importance. Then electronic devices took center stage, such as pagers, mobile phones and Blackberries. Now everybody has a crackberry. Except me. I don't feel any less important. In fact, I feel free.
The jury is still out on whether this level of connectedness is good or bad. I do stay in near daily email contact with my mother. I had less contact with her before email became common. This is not a bad thing. But some say replacing face to face interaction with distance messaging is unhealthy. You lose the art of conversation. You can learn so much more about people through their whole person than through the sterile electronic medium. We become connected yet isolated at the same time. One article I read says we've become "a nation of hyperconnected hermits."
This brings me to music. Folks love discussing their play lists these days. I'm a complete outsider on this subject. I have never owned a MP3 player. I have never downloaded a tune from the web. My wife knows way more about this than I do. As an outsider evesdropping into all this playlist discussion, I get the impression that some people construct play lists purely on how other people will critique them. Do you really like all the music you suck down into that MP3 thingy? Or do you think it will impress your friends? I suppose a playlist could be construed as some sort of work of art. From that perspective, I can't really knock it. In this light, different tunes are really no different than the chords that make up a specific song. But I think something more vain is going on here, maybe something akin to wearing the latest designer clothing. It is constructing a facade, the way you want the world to perceive you.
I have always been a utilitarian when it comes to clothing. Clothes keep me from being naked (and protect the public), they protect my skin when performing certain hazardous activities, and this time of year they keep me from freezing to death. That's it. I don't try to define who I am by carefully crafting my wardrobe. Likewise, I couldn't care less what other people think of the music I enjoy.
New music that gets my attention these days comes out of the folk singer/songwriter realm. This includes a number of female artists and male artists like Eddie Vedder. I like that raw, unprocessed accoustic sound. Last night after some good Thai food, Cathy and I went to see Liz Longley and Paula Cole. They performed at Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry, NH. This venue seats about 200 people. We sat about 6ft from the center mic. Liz will certainly hit the big-time, a vocally gifted singer/songwriter still attending Berkley School of Music. She hasn't been tainted by big-label producers and fame yet. Paula made the big-time in the 90's and is working on new music again. She sang some choice material from an album that will be released later this year. Small venues like this are great. Both performers encouraged a lot of two-way interaction with the audience. Cathy and I saw Shawn Colvin here a few months ago, and we plan to go back more often.
Paula with guitarist Kevin Barry and percussionist Ben Wittman
So is there a tie-in with cycling here somewhere? When I ride, the last thing in the world I want to hear is my cell phone or some MP3 thingy jamming sounds into my ears. Riding off road far away from cars is even better. This time of year, all you may hear is wind in the pines, cascading water in the streams, and occasional crows or hawks. More importantly, you can hear your own thoughts. Your mind becomes untethered, free to think new thoughts. It is a time to be unshackled from the everyday world that demands our continuous attention.