October 18, 2013

The Way We Were

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big believer in things that do not need plugging in.  I have a fondness for pencils.  For acoustic music of all kinds.  For facetime that does not involve a webcam.

This fall has found a couple of related bees in my bonnet.  As faithful readers of my blog, you get to read about them and, hopefully, ponder.

One - cell phones.  I am not completely anti-cell phone, but over the last year or so, I have been increasingly aware of a side-effect of cell phones that few have probably considered.  Before my grandfather died, when I called the farm I did not know if I would talk with him or my grandmother, or both.  When I call my mom to ask her a specific question, my dad might answer and we'll have a nice talk. 

When I call one of my brothers, I talk to my brother because both my brothers only have cell phones and their lady-friends have their own cell phones.  My brothers and I are separated by much distance geographically.  I love their partners because they do, but I haven't had much chance to get to know them individually.  Because of cell phones, I will never "accidently" have a lovely conversation with them and that is a barrier to building those friendships that are so important with my sisters-in-law (ish).

Two - albums.  We recently moved our computer out of the handy place next to the kitchen.  It was handy there because all our music is on the computer and I like to listen to music as I cook.  We haven't wired (or wireless-ed) the connection, so I got out the CDs.  Remember those?  I was in the kitchen working a couple of weeks ago and put in Blue Rodeo's "Five Days in July".  (And everyone in a certain demographic reading this shared a full-body smile.  Am I right?) 

In this day of downloading specific tracks there is no real appreciation for the album as an entity.  An album like "Five Days in July" is a WHOLE ALBUM EXPERIENCE.  One song ends and you have the next one in your head and in the correct key before it starts.  Track by track downloading has killed the art of the album, just as video killed the radio star.

Three - album art.  That got me thinking about the physical being of the album - vinyl, cassette and CD all required packaging to make them look nice.  For Joni Mitchell, there was (is) so much significance in the album art of her recordings.

While environmentally helpful, these digital days give us little or no visual association between the music and an artistic impression that the musicians (or the big record company) want us to have.  Can anybody hear the words "Five Days in July" without that CD cover flashing through his head?

The Music Association my choir is a part of has subscribed to a computer based rehearsal programme to help people learn parts and improve playing and singing ability.  I think it's a great tool and once we learn how to use it, it will be very useful in improving our choir. But it still comes down to singing.

That said,  a lot of improvement can happen simply by jamming or singing or painting or taking pictures with people who are more experienced than you are.  I encourage you to get out there and spend some time in community doing these things.  Leave your cell phone at home.

Happy Autumn, friends.  Here's to winter warmed by music made in friendship.

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