the public internet just turned twenty. it's hard to believe that our world existed without this technological magic. a society without cell phones, cars, tv, and the schwans man seems plausible. but no world wide web?
i remember getting together with college friends to listen to music, bringing a cassette carrier that doubled as my mobile hot wheels garage. play-stop-rewind-stop-play-stop-fastforward-stop-play. shushing everybody when your favorite part came on, and then getting shushed as you talked through somebody else's favorite part. i remember cutting out articles from magazines housed in the library. i remember staying up super late to watch dave sanborn's night music and showtime at the apollo. i remember checking out cds from the school library and attempting to dump them onto the hard drive of my monster desktop computer. i smuggled a mini recorder into concert halls and outdoor festivals, making my own bootleg tracks. i got my hands dirty, searching for music.
kids these days paste youtube links onto their friends' facebook pages, post spotify happenings, and email each other tracks that they have somehow converted into an mp3 format. students write their own music, record it on their computer, clean it up with a free program they found online, and then throw it onto a soundcloud page. they stream naxos, scavenge libraries from the couch, google literally anything they can fathom, and use wikipedia as the informational authority.
i teach with this really great guy at iowa state. trombonist david stuart is a walking encyclopedia. i go to him with a specific question on some obscure topic and leave our conversation realizing that he knows more about the subject matter than i do, despite the fact that it's not his expertise. he is a terrific guy, and has my undying admiration. a few years back, he told me that he was impressed that i had created a strong community of jazz students at isu (something that was woefully missing). i smiled while my brain silently screamed "what a great idea!!!"
the social aspect of listening to records with your friends, consuming your beverage du jour, staying up forever to be dazzled by musical technique and calmed with artistic beauty and then passionately talk about it ad nauseum - is it vanishing? staring at your laptop by alone, navigating through the wormholes of youtube videos, listening to 45 second samples of recordings, and watching webcasted live concerts in your pjs doesn't strengthen the human connection that music so desperately thrives upon. do we actually want the touch of king midas?
well, there's no going back. all of these wonderful video clips of any type of music you want are up on youtube. albums that were only on vinyl are now remastered, and you can cherry pick the tracks on iTunes. student musicians have immediate access to thousands of interpretations of lincolnshire posy. instructional videos, program notes, countless images - hell, even blog posts discussing these topics are at their fingertips. the era of open information really is pretty wonderful, so we should celebrate.