Monday, September 28, 2009

Going Deaf Because They're Dumb

According to an article by Nate Anderson on, there are many growing concerns about personal music players, and they go beyond the risk of deafness. Anderson listed five main issues that are raised about what are, in my opinion, wonderful inventions.

The first concern is that they're destroying music. Anderson quotes the chief music critic for the UK Times as saying, "recorded music that has been turned into a computer file, squeezed down the internet and then scrunched into a tiny part of your zillion-track iPod is more compromised than most." I have to say that I find this argument lacking in rationality. The critic seems to think that unless music is live, it's not worth listening to. I completely disagree. Live music has positivie qualities, which vary depending upon which type of music it is. But live music also has negative qualities, like the propensity of people to screw things up. Personally, when I hear a band or performer of some sort hit a wrong note I cringe. I very much dislike hearing mistakes in music, even though I understand the occurrence (very well, having made many while performing in my high school orchestra). I love that you can hear every little detail of a song with a personal music player. There are no background noises like that of a crowd or coughing, and no mistakes because every part of it is recorded to perfection. What do you loose in a music file?

The second issue is that personal music players make us all into narcissists. I find this to be completely off base, and probably the result of the older generation taking issue with the differences of the younger. Narcissists think everything revolves around them and that they are the most important people in the world. Personal music devices do not make me think like that. I happen to prefer music to the sound of cars driving by me, so what? It doesn't mean I won't stop to chat with someone I know, like the article postulates. The suggestion that people talk less in public places is also funny to me. I typically do not talk to strangers, it's not contingent on whether or not I'm listening to an iPod. Also mentioned in the article is that people only have to listen to songs they like, but what's wrong with that? What possible good could come of forcing myself to listen to something I hate? You wouldn't go to a concert of a band you don't like, would you? How is the level of selection on an iPod that much different?

The third "problem" with personal music players is that they are killing the music business. I disagree. I think they are changing the music business in a way that the big music companies do not like. The existence of digital music files that can be downloaded from the internet is lessening the need for music publishing companies and putting more power in the hands of the artist. In fact, it looks to me like artists now mostly need big music companies for their ability to supply recording studios.

The fourth issue brought up applies much more to Europe than the United States. There is an idea that players may be confiscated at borders and checked for illegal music content. Anderson supplies a good response to this saying, "This never made much sense—agents don't have the time, nor do they have any reliable way of knowing if particular tracks are legal copies."

The final issue is deafness. I do not have much of a response for this. I am not a doctor or scientist who could evaluate how valid worries about deafness are. All I can say is this is not a new issue. Before mp3 players came mini disc players, portable compact disc players and portable tape players, often with radios built in. These have been around for a long time, they are not going anywhere. Anyone who does not realize that there is a potential to damage their hearing if they listen to the music too loud, too long probably deserves to lose some of their hearing. The issue here is not the portable music players, but rather authorities trying to protect humans from their own stupidity. If you do that, they will never learn. Perhaps we just need to let that run its own course.

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