Thursday, September 4, 2014

Variability: The Essence of Variation

If the media had not so misled us into thinking that reliability in the sense of utter predictability was a good thing the quality of our daily lives might be altogether different. 

Today in the paper was a featured article about how high school kids no longer rely on clothing to "distract" them but use the latest tech gizmos instead.  What is this distraction business? 

I do recall boredom being a major fact of life when I was a child.  I lived right at the dawn, you might say, of the media-centered era: TV was invented while I was in grade school and started to invade the U.S. household before I hit high school.  Recordings, still a cumbersome matter of 78 rpms, of which 4 or 5 were required for a symphony, were transformed by the invention of the LP.  The end was in sight.

The end of what?  Of variability.  As soon as I heard something once I knew it: I knew the timing of every sequence of tones, not just the formal surface of the piece of music.  This was the enemy, that much was clear to me.

And I was right.

Now that I strive to put elasticity back into the experience of every tiny musical element I see how right I was.  Now that I realize how problematic this is for even some highly gifted young listeners (people in their 20s and 30s young) I am saddened beyond words.