Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Part v. whole

The always-astute Seth Godin hits upon one of the issues facing those of us who work in genres (like jazz composition) that depend upon the development of an idea, as much as the quality of that idea:

The web has become a giant highlights reel... [...] We can skim really fast now. [...] As consumers of information, though, I wonder if the best parts are really the best parts. [...] the parts you miss are there for a reason.

Real change is rarely caused by the good parts. Real change and impact and joy come from the foundation and the transitions and the little messages that sneak in when you least expect them. The highlights of the baseball game are highlights largely because the rest of the game got you ready for them.

Oh, the irony! Did you notice how I highlighted key quotes from a post about the dangers of highlighting?

But it's true, and he's right. One of the, oh, I dunno, 5 million reasons I adore Frank Zappa is that he understood there was a certain aesthetic value in, well, momentary boredom, and that sometimes you have to let dumb shit happen on tape for a little bit in order to make the beautiful sections of an album really stand out.

The web, for all its potential as a tool for focusing our attention on the specifics of something (I guess "cropping" would be the main metaphor here), is also a deep hit of short-term gratification (cue Louis CK noting how quickly impatience can morph into ingratitude).

To put all that another way: for independent musicians, it's great how sites like CD Baby and eMusic offer browsing customers an opportunity to hear 2 minute clips before actually purchasing an album. But honestly -- how would you go about selecting a representative 2 minute clip from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony? Or Coltrane's "My Favorite Things"?

1 comment:

mrG said...

and more to the point, when was the last time you drove more than 5 minutes out of your way to go hear someone based on a 20 second clip? That's the line I give to my colleagues who ask, "Why should I give my recordings away for FREE?"

btw, a little off topic, but here's a little website chicklet I developed, itself 'lifted' from a commercial pressing LP of Alexis Korner bootlegs -- I put this on my music sites to proclaim to the world that its OK to capture my shadow, because I really don't believe you are capturing my soul.