Monday, March 14, 2011
On (Not) Being There
This past Saturday night, I attended a scintillating jazz concert featuring the music of two of the best jazz-rock bassists around: Victor Wooten and Stanley Clarke. Rather than reviewing the concert (but I will note that I like Stanley Clarke's playing and band much better, though--more finesse, less histrionics), consider something about the audience.
Several people were checking their hand held devices for long periods of time during the live concert. Apparently, they could not simply be there in Boulder Theater during a live performance without simultaneously being somewhere else through computer mediation.
This is no small problem, but a change in consciousness--and for the worse. It used to be "distraction,"now it is called "multi-tasking." When awareness is divided it is lessened, diminished, impoverished. Before one eyes and ears are several jazz-rock musicians playing fascinating and difficult music. Since it is jazz, it involves improvisation and lots of interaction with the audience (unlike Kenny G going into yet another ego trance in front of his back up band). Yet during this concert, some souls help but stare at their little screens and "check" things. What things need to be checked when a concert is going on, a concert that one probably paid good money to see?
Media change is ecological: that is, it is systemic and multidimensional. More importantly, it is usually unnoticed. Most people sleepwalk through technological change, not knowing what it is doing to their souls, to music, to conversation, to reading, to listening, as McLuhan sagaciously observed.
Perhaps there is a word we need to hear: Wake up--and listen to the music of life.