Belle & Sebastian have a new album out. Yes! The first cut: As usual, Belle & Sebastian help me realize that literate, beautiful, almost-danceable rock ‘n roll is possible…
The other longing that this sort of music gives me is to figure out how the soundtracks of our lives figure into the physical/material structure of our brains. If we are truly spiritual creatures living a human experience, then is music the connection to that spiritual realm? And have humans always music in our heads? Is that why I respond to wind rushing through saguaros or pines, the pound and boom of rapids, the silence and crack of rock? Are we hard-wired in some way to value these sounds, and if so why? And what do they mean?
Steven Johnson talks about sound in his new book (which I haven’t read, so no spoilers) How We Got To Now: Six Innovations That Made The Modern World. It’s reviewed by Cory Doctorow here, and, well, I’ll let him speak for himself:
Ultimately, the message of How We Got to Now is that the story of technology is complex and nonlinear. Innovations arise from the “adjacent possible” — you get railroads when it’s railroading time, and not before, even if some prescient inventor sketches them out far in advance — and they open up all kinds of new possibilities. They are built by human labor, but they are also shaped by wider social forces, and they feed back into those forces. A technology doesn’t change one thing, but several, and for a long time, and those changes reverberate down through the centuries.
I’m not sure that anyone thinks that technological development is linear anymore, but we are still too often trapped in that technophile/technophobe dialectic, one that doesn’t accurately sketch out technological development. Much as the supposed environmentalists who use styrofoam cups, and the hunters who are preserving wilderness sometimes despite their own efforts, technology (unlike science, which even accepting Kuhn’s argument moves in a much more predictable fashion) is a fascinatingly odd combination of – as Doctorow notes – labor and social forces and feedback, and its consequences – woo-hoo, I’m not cold and wet right now, oh shite the climate is changing irrevocably because of human impact upon it – are nearly impossible to understand, let alone predict.
PS. For the record, I can’t think that about spiritual creatures without vomiting a little in my mouth…I’m too much a materialist I guess? Or is it just that the dialectic moves so quickly that I am constantly bewildered, in all the best ways?