Jim Walsh of the Minneapolis alt-weekly the City Pages has this rather beautiful column on the ways the iPod and iTunes foreground music in the lives of their users.
The “record player” is now the size of an Altoids box, and what that means is that come Saturday, four million free spirits who very likely don’t own a turntable will ignore the puritans who would dismiss the iPod as trendy or tinny. They will hit “shuffle,” wait for the universe to play mix-tape master, and allow their inner Greil Marcuses to suss out the secret link between Neko Case’s rave-up of the old spiritual “This Little Light of Mine (I’m Gonna Let It Shine),” Hilary Duff’s “Haters,” and the Midnight Evils’ “Go, Motherfucker, Go.”
In her 1984 book Software for People, electronic music pioneer Pauline Oliveros wrote about the way the then-new Walkman changed its users’ relationship with the sonic world around them. She argued that the ability to choose ambient sounds at all times meant losing the serendipitous beauty of the sound environment.
The end of Walsh’s column shows the flip-side of Oliveros’ concerns, borrowing (serendipitously? subconsciously?) her software metaphor:
It means that four million people will be giving, receiving, listening to, and talking about music on Saturday, and what that means is that four million minds and hearts will be reconfigured like so much upgraded software, and the truth is, what that means is we have no idea what that means. Yet.