Killing me softly with his article about iTunes, killing me softly…

I don’t usually do this, but today, I sat down with my iPod and iTunes, got ready for the radio show with a couple of playlists and stuff, sort of veered back and forth between feeling bad about it and not. And then I remembered this thing that Steve Almond wrote.

Seriously, right down to the crack about Undercover Angel, Steve Almond knows my mind about all sorts of junk, but especially about how iTunes and iPods make it no fun to be a music geek. In a previous post here at 68Comeback, we talked about how the iPod’s teeny-tiny screen makes an album’s cover art a great deal less worthwhile. Almond alludes to that within his larger complaint that this technology makes the music listening experience overly convenient, which sucks all the romance out of it and totally devalues the experience, maybe even reduces it to a subsidiary event to that of the general farting about with a gadget.

As a guy who’s made the occasional mixtape/mixCD for one person or another, studied a couple of album covers and been described as a music geek/snob at various times in his life, I’m pretty knee-jerk sympathetic to what Almond is saying, but maybe that’s why I have to regard it with a certain amount of skepticism.

I can’t quite lose sight of the fact that maybe the argument concerning the whole ‘sanctity of the musical experience’ is complete malarkey. With or without the collateral organization that comes with digitization, we manage to degrade the experience just fine in any number of ways, intentionally or not. We play John Coltrane while we’re doing our vacuuming. We misquote Bruce Springsteen on the tarmac when the hostages come home. Besides, ‘Pods and ‘Tunes exist in the first place due to the complete commercialization of music, which doesn’t by itself negate a claim to the sacredness of an experience, but it doesn’t exactly support it without reservation, either. And so, if we were already devaluing our musical experiences before iTunes came along, why would we put the blame on the tools we use to do the work?

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