To the beard-strokers and hand-wringers busy divining the future of opera houses and concert halls, the iPod brings news: some good, some not. Who could complain about this avalanche of music? But who can cope with it? Brant admits to the pressures of such superrichness. He feels obliged to listen for all he’s worth. He doesn’t deny that he may not be listening as well as he once did.
[…] In Brant’s aesthetic, music makes walking around more pleasant, like a good pair of shoes. Music as something useful is an idea that Paul Hindemith and other 20th-century composers disillusioned by the overblown Romantic mystique of music pursued, but with limited impact. The elevator-music industry paid heed and made a fortune.
[…] German musicologists told us in the last two centuries that music was sacred; you stopped doing anything else and listened. Another friend suggests that the iPod and devices like it demonstrate the end of communal music. Brant’s iPod acts more like a wall than an altar: he on one side, the honking and blaring of Sixth Avenue on the other. That he hasn’t been hit by a car while listening to the Kinks speaks for the existence of angels.
The iPod culture is not a sudden event. Record buyers have been taking the opera house into their living rooms for a century.
[…] Maybe an irreversible progression is under way: more kinds of music, fewer listeners for each kind. Bigger and smaller at the same time. Concert and opera life began with people gathering together to share the pleasure (or annoyance) of one another’s company. It may end with one concert hall per listener.