: This is the second part of an essay begun here
The iPod changed everything.
For my birthday this year, I treated myself to a 40GB iPod, and—for the last three months—I've done nothing but eat, drink, sleep, download, and rip music. As of today, my iPod contains 4300 songs and is only a little over half full. Every day, I add more and more music to it.
These two months with the iPod have reunited (yes, that's an homage to the Peaches and Herb classic
) my music collection and me. I've listened to things I hadn't even thought about in years—everything from the Barbra Streisand/Bryan Adams schlock "I Finally Found Someone
" to Danzig's "Mother
" to über-honky tonk singer Gary Stewart
's "Out of Hand." I've fallen in love again with The Beautiful South
, the Pet Shop Boys
, Too Much Joy
, and Jann Arden
And it was so easy to fall in love with (my) music again. All I had to do was get in the habit of grabbing my iPod on the way out in the morning. I'm a commuter, and I spend about two hours a day on trains. That's a lot of (way too much!) time, and I usually spend it—er, my iPod spends it, anyway—on shuffle, letting chance move me from one song to another. As a result, I've gradually moved through my music collection with a kind of low-grade purposefulness, reacquainting myself with music that I sometimes hadn't thought about in months or even years. Just by way of example, this morning, my iPod played songs—in one single stretch—by Flatt & Scruggs, Ryan Adams, Manu Chao, Tracy Chapman, Loretta Lynn, Porter Waggoner and Dolly Parton, and Youssou N'Dour. As far as I'm concerned, that's what heaven ought to sound like.
Incredibly, not everyone is happy about the easy access to music that iPod gives. A few weeks ago, New York Times
critic Bernard Holland suggested
that the easy availability of music on our iPods made us less grateful and knowledgeable about music:
If you can listen to everything, you may end up hearing nothing. I sometimes wish half of [a friend's] iPod were filled with blank spaces. Music cannot begin or end without silence in front and behind. Unending music is not music.
And is it all too easy? Any music critic will tell you that the eager anticipation of new recordings fades with their unsolicited, almost daily flow into the office. Would knowing a little less actually make us smarter, or at least hungrier?
I do wonder if spiritual muscle tone is being softened.
Can you believe that? I can't, and I'm here to tell you that Holland is wrong. Having access to music doesn't mean that you never hear silence. Even on those days when I've had the plugs in my ears more than I've had them out, I still heard more than enough silence (and, um, the "non-silence" that the world produces) to punctuate the music. And even I can't keep the iPod running all
Plus, for me, anyway, the iPod has helped me remember music. I'm hungrier for music than ever. I'm seeking out older music for the iPod ("PopMuzik" by M, anyone?), and I'm buying more CDs than ever. I'm listening to the radio again. I'm reading my music magazines with more interest than ever.
I'm a music freak again, and it feels good.