Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Connecting to others

I popped up to see Eldest's choir concert at college on Sunday, following Snuggler's opening performance in Anne of Green Gables on Saturday (she was Marilla; Little Guy has a small part).On the bus I read The Winter of Our Disconnect: How Three Totally Wired Teenagers (and a Mother Who Slept with Her iPhone)Pulled the Plug on Their Technology and Lived to Tell the Tale. Good read, funny writer, worth getting.

The concert was good. As my mind effortlessly wafted between the music (Haydn's Creation) and other worthwhile (and not worthwhile) thoughts, it occurred to me that the anti-gravity thing that happens in with my brain during a live concert doesn't occur with recorded music. And I wondered why that might be.

Part of it is that seeing the source of the music -- the seventy singers and forty orchestra members, the three soloists, the conductor -- makes a difference. Maybe not the difference between eating a McChicken sandwich (if one does that sort of thing) and raising/killing/plucking/cooking a chicken oneself, but sight + hearing means we're engaged with real people, not just their output. We see the joy on the faces of the singers, and we wonder about this one's blue hair or that one's glasses, and somewhere in our being we are aware that those other beings are like us and different than us and are doing something for us.

Then there's the matter of being in an audience. A concert is a different thing than "me and my playlist" or "me and the people who act and think like me" (a fact driven home by the wondrous rapture of the man sitting next to you or the teen texting in front of you). There's an "us"-ness that we lose when we live in the isolation of our preferences.  And maybe that's something we want to lose from time to time, but I daresay, in light of reading The Winter of Our Disconnect, that often when we connect almost-exclusively to our desires we inadvertently disconnect from other things we deep-down need. Like... each other.


  1. Plus, the only time I'm giving full attention to music is if it's live. Otherwise, it's background to driving, or occasionally to puttering around the house (increasingly, I find I can focus better on reading/writing/grading and such things in silence.

  2. Good point about live performances. As I'm sure you do with your kids' plays (and Eldest's choral performances), when I watch music school performances I'm often thinking about how far this kid or that has come, or hoping this other one will be okay, or just being glad that they know other kids who are as obsessed with music as they are. And of course seeing performances live enables me to think much more about where the various sounds are coming from.

    It might be easy to think the difference is as simple as having more senses involved, but of course it's really about community. To quickly see the difference, look what's happened to pop music since the age of MTV. It's visual, but not at all connected to the reality of making music, and it has changed the chances of success so that they are tied much more to the appearance of the performer.

    On a related note, have you read The Shallows yet? It has really good discussion of how our technologies change the way we think and experience reality.

    I read a review of Winter of Our Disconnect and thought it sounded really interesting. I'd like to pull the plug myself about now, but here I am on the computer again...

  3. wonderful..live music..and Anne of Green Gables!@