Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Musical Free Association

My obsession with music is an odd psychological release for me. I love listening to music. And beyond listening to it, I love sharing it. Music, to me, is one of the few universal experiences that can be shared cross-culturally.

Information is one of the few non-subtractable resources. By sharing one bit of knowledge, one can never take that knowledge away from another. It is infinitely shareable—you can read this blog, but you can't make it less readable for the next viewer. The information age is opening up the world to a strange new possibility. One without scarcity of resources. I know that sounds like a bunch of anti-capitalist Commie BS, but it holds some water. With an explosion of information comes a natural explosion of innovation. Resource usage becomes more efficient, and the many media used to distribute that information suddenly cost nothing. With access to the internet, information has become essentially free. Anyone can have it, share it, modify it, use it, redistribute it.

The big hole in copyright law is the distinction between the idea and the actually produced work. Basically, I may use certain concepts or bits and transform them for myself (think Vanilla Ice and Queen). The internet has exposed this hole magnificently; I cannot unhear a song and the copy I bought can easily be redistributed without subtracting the information of the original disk at all. In simple terms, copying a song is so cheap and easy that it has become virtually indistinguishable from listening to a song at home with a friend.

The distribution of information on the internet has accelerated the open source movement (stuff like Wikipedia). Information evolves and changes so fast on the internet, we can witness explosions in a matter of moments; lolcatz are a perfect example. Ownership, at least in the digital world, has become diluted. Our current structures for dealing with property and ownership have lost much of their potency. Bottom line, music in the digital age is now a free association black market without any market. It is 100% consumer without a vendor.

Which sort of brings me back to where I started. Giving away music is an organic form of sharing for me. I love letting people hear the things that elicit deep responses from me. While I cannot replicate the exact experience of the moment I first heard a piece of music; I cannot perfectly extract my emotional state and hand it to my friend; I can give them a completely untampered piece of the experience. A raw gem ready to be cut. And listening to that music with that person is a way of sharing an old and a new experience. To me, those moments that I share music are indelibly written into my brain.

It is one of my deepest forms of giving. It is me showing my tastes; likes and dislikes. Asking for approval and acceptance. Giving music is both intellectual and emotional. It strikes me how a few notes can make me sad, happy, excited, anticipatory, delighted, melancholy, wary, an endless array.

Those moments of giving are so vivid. I gave Ciera the Magic Numbers on our first date. I gave James Florence and The Machine (the one from the Eat. Pray. Love. Trailer) making dinner one night. I have given so much. And I have received so much. Hearing a new song on the radio with someone puts itself in my mind. An instant memory. Hearing that song again always has tones and flourishes of that time. Hearing the Flaming Lips in Chris's truck. It's all there.

Music is me saying I appreciate and love you. It's ok not to like it, the gift is in sharing the music for a brief moment and talking about what appeals or does not. It allows me to find what I truly enjoy about the music. It may not be the crappy lyrics, but it could be the catchy tune and thumping beat that makes me think of that summer day in the car with my friends singing along in a moment that will never be again. I like that.