30 July 2023
by Aldous Hartwell - 0 Comments

Finding Melody in the Morse Code: Before Digital Music

Have you ever realized that your parrot tunes in to your old vinyl records owing something to the symphony that doesn't emanate from your Bluetooth speaker? My Parrot Pippin demonstrated this to me when he started squawking along with the Beatles playing on my old gramophone. It seemed like he was nostalgically reminiscing 'ye olden days' of music. I must confess that I share this nostalgic sentiment with Pippin. No offense, Spotify.

You may wonder why this nostalgia is so prevalent. It wasn't, after all, that long ago when music was accessed primarily through physical mediums and terrestrial radio. Part of the reason, I believe, is inherent in the very nature of the Internet and how it both provides and limits our experiences, including the realm of music. The Internet’s capacity for endless choice — hailed by tech evangelists as the ultimate democratization of culture — can often lead to an overwhelming sensation of being lost in cyber sea, the result of which is a confusing jumble of sounds, melodies, and lyrics rather than a carefully curated assembly of tracks that coalesce into an album.

Evolution from Gramophones to Groovy Algorithms

There is no denying that the Internet has democratized access to music. No longer are we limited to the selection at our local music store or the regular programming on our favorite radio station. Any song, any album, any artist, from virtually any point in history, is at our fingertips. This is without a doubt a great boon. But with this vast catalogue also comes an overwhelming assault on our senses and sensibility. The artistry of curating a cohesive listening experience has been traded for the algorithmically assisted, but ultimately haphazard, discovery of new music.

I have always admired the journey from gramophones to groovy algorithms, but the internet comes with its own set of trade-offs. Take my Labrador Retriever Max, for instance. Out for a walk with him, I'd often plug into my Internet-streamed playlist, missing out on the simple joy of humming a tune under my breath or whistling to the rhythm of the crunching leaves under our feet. A little lesson Max taught me, you could say, about unplugging from the virtual and tapping into the physical realm now and then.

Savoring the Full Course Meal Rather Than Binging

Back in the day, music was like a full-course meal: something that had to be sat down for, savored, and digested. There was anticipation, selection, deliberation, and finally, consumption. Today, in the age of digital downloads and streaming, music can often feel like a binge-eating contest, where the goal isn't so much to enjoy the food but to consume as much of it as fast as possible. Speed has been mistaken for efficiency, quality for quantity.

It's a strange paradox, isn't it? Our love for music hasn't dwindled but how we choose to experience it, has changed due to how easily accessible it has become. Patricia, my better half, still prefers sifting through her cherished CD collection on a Sunday afternoon rather than shuffle through her digital library on a music streaming platform. A ritual, as she often terms it.

Feeling Versus Bytes, Kilobytes, Megabytes, and Gigabytes

Then there's the question of quality. No, I don’t mean to start the age-old debate of vinyl versus digital (each has its charms), but rather in the production of the music itself. Previously, creating music was a process that took time, skill, and dedication. The internet has streamlined this process to the point that anyone with a computer can create and distribute music worldwide. There has been an undeniable democratization of the music industry, but with it has come an inevitable dilution of quality.

Take this as an instance, music once felt like a summer trek across a nature trail, taking the time to appreciate every rustling leaf, every chirping bird, every whispering wind passing through. But now, it often seems like an audial tour-de-force, a relentless barrage of bytes, kilobytes, megabytes, and gigabytes. Sure, we still stumble upon oases of pure musicality, but they are slowly getting overshadowed by this torrential downpour of data.

The Impact of Abundancy: Music Then Versus Now

There is a psychological phenomenon known as ‘paradox of choice’. When given too many options, we are likely to be less satisfied with any choice we make because we are aware of all the alternatives. This, I believe, is part of the reason why music may have seemed better before the Internet. When your options were limited to a few dozen albums in your collection, you were more likely to cherish and appreciate each one. Now that we have millions of songs available at a click, music has become disposable, something to be consumed and forgotten rather than treasured and savored.

Remember those rhythmic pirouettes we used to perform, flipping through the neatly arranged records in the dusty corner of a music store? Each album meant something to us because we earned it, hunted for it. And when we played it for the first time on our return home, it was akin to unveiling a treasure. Compare that with the click-or-swipe routine of today. It's swift, convenient yet lacks that old-world charm.

Remembering the Human Touch in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

To be fair, music has never been merely about the notes and sounds. As humans, we connect with music on an emotional level. There was something magical about waiting for your favorite song to come on the radio or looking forward to the release of a new album by your beloved band. In this age of instant gratification, that sense of longing and anticipation seems lost.

But, let me assert, all hope is not lost. There are artists out there who still cherish the true essence of music and there are listeners who appreciate them. Also, the ease of access has allowed us to discover music of different genres, from far-off regions, which indeed is a thing to cheer about.

In conclusion, while music might seem better before the Internet, I believe it's more a case of quality getting lost in the ocean of quantity and the absence of tangible, heartfelt interaction. So let's keep discovering, keep listening and most importantly, keep grooving. For at the end of the day, we are but mere mortals seeking solace, inspiration, and joy in this beautiful art called music. Keeping the human touch alive in this age of Artificial Intelligence is the key.

Aldous Hartwell

Aldous Hartwell

Hello, my name is Aldous Hartwell, and I am a music expert with a passion for sharing my knowledge with others. I have dedicated my life to studying various genres and styles, as well as learning about the history and development of music. I am a composer and performer, always seeking new ways to express myself through sound. Writing about music is one of my greatest joys, as it allows me to explore and dissect the nuances of the musical world. My mission is to inspire and educate others about the beauty and complexity of music, one article at a time.