Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

The title is completely misleading ... this post has absolutely nothing to do with the celebration of Easter. Instead, as I was listening to music this evening (primarily some old Clapton, Cream, and Animals) from my misspent youth, I was struck by the evocative power that music has for my generation.

The point I've been pondering as a result of being so struck is this: I'm not sure that the same evocative power of music is present in later generations when the onslaught of video changed the listening and thinking habits of the generation. It seems that the IPod generation both gained more immediate access to their music of choice and at the same time are less driven by the music due to the prevalence of video in their lives. I think I'd like to claim that there is an analogy to reading as well. So what am I babbling about?

Consider that when one reads a book, one is tasked by the author to use their imagination to create the detailed and vivid mental picture of the scenes and actions described in broad stroke by the author. Contrast that to seeing a movie. There the film maker has taken the imagination called for by the author of the original book or play and replaced it by *his* vision of what the author was writing about.  Watching a movie is in many senses an imaginative void for precisely that reason. Those of us who read a lot often find film deeply unsatisfying simply because we have a different or better or more vivid imagination than the film maker is capable of expressing. My claim would be that the loss of exercise of the imagination "muscle" as it were by watching video based works leads to atrophy and a certain lack of ability to imagine in the depth and vivacity common to those who read or listen to music. In music the difference is that the songwriter/performer is like the author using aural phrasing rather than words. The net result is similar - we build a vivid picture in our mind and then tie the imagery to emotions that we are experiencing.

So what do you think? Has the move to more video entertainment and less written and musical entertainment led to atrophy of the imagination muscle? Does the IPod generation get less from the music and perhaps more from the video than prior generations? I know the answer in my case, but I am admittedly an outlier and a bit insane. I really want to know what you think.


  1. I would go crazy without books to read! I also love music, with or without the music video. I just consider them a bonus. And movies are a great thing when I'm just looking for something to do.

    This young generation though, may be in trouble. Or is that what the generation before always thinks? lol

  2. Most songs would be unimaginable gibberish if not for a raunchy video clip to keep the listener interested.


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