Three Botticelli pictures, my favorite Respighi piece, one that I have always loved,
was on the radio earlier tonight. Yes, I listen to classical public radio, but streaming-
thru my Sonos stereo speakers in my living room.
So, as I almost always do, I stopped what I was doing (dishes) and sat down and
listened in quiet rapture.
But as I listened, this thought occurred to me- why is this suddenly a special
occasion? With these same speakers, I can instantly open my iPad or iPhone and
dial up the player, and access AppleMusic, Spotify, the Naxos library, and a couple
other streaming libraries with thousands of recordings. If I really want to hear the
piece, I can push a couple buttons and have it blasting all over the house whenever I
want, in good quality sound. (As long as the power does not go out, a threat made
very real by our crumbling infrastructure and inability to fend off hackers, etc. But I
digress. Everything is fine; let’s just move on. Or something.)
And if suddenly I need some new socks? Open up a device, do some clicking, and 2
days later, there is a package on my doorstep.
So basically, anything you think of, as long as you live in the world of privilege as
many of us do, you can have it. Quickly. It’s magical.
As far as music goes, I remember the giddy delight of finding a CD (or cassette or LP)
in a record store- one that I wanted, but could not easily find. I distinctly remember
when the new Borders store opened in Rochester, right around my college
graduation, and my parents took me there and offered to buy me whatever CD I
wanted. It was a big, full new store, with more CDs on display than my feeble brain
could process. I found the Nagano recording of Poulenc Dialogue of the Carmelites
that I loved and so desperately wanted, and I’m quite sure I danced a little jig out of
sheer joy. There it was! Something I liked, and had been looking for, and I could get
it. Right then. Amazing.
For that matter, put 20 year old me in Tower Records in NYC with about 30 bucks in
his wallet, and imagine the hell of trying to narrow down the choices of what to buy.
Imagine the amazement – so many great recordings, so much music, so many
choices. What we have now at our fingertips was a once in a blue moon, if that,
type experience just two decades ago.
In the blink of an eye, we are drowning in information. I know this is not a new
concept, but I wonder if we have stopped long enough to really think about the
consequences. And I wonder if we are raising kids in this world of absurd
abundance with no concept of how dazzling this really is, and what unknown worlds of harm could be the result? Not the least of these, as we see with the ever-growing
threat of disasters, both from nature (fires, for one) and from idiots (politicians of all
parties, for another), do we have ANY concept of impermanence, or will we just let
life ending disasters occur while we play candy crush and roll our eyes? Do we
have a concept of working for something? Of real enjoyment? If we just consume
and discard and move on, brief in our connections and our desires, what will we
No conclusions, only questions. And if you don’t know the Respighi, go listen. It’s a