Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bach: an argument for technology

     Our lives are half-lives, our experience mediated, and so diminished, by technology. So we are told by our age’s best and brightest; and the literature of the varieties of media experience has all the traits of the literature of religious experience, an account of the adept’s valiant struggle with our fallen state - of the struggle to stay afloat in the sea of artifice, the polluted data-stream.
     To this conviction, the recorded music of Bach is contrary testimony. It defies the argument that experience mediated by technology is a diminished thing.
     That is my own experience, at any rate. Though it has come, in my case, almost completely through recordings, this experience of Bach is as rich an encounter as one could hope for in a lifetime. It is as direct, as real, as the experience of a young woman learning to play the piano in a mining town in the Rockies, or a dangling man going about the streets of the city with a song in his heart. It is the thing itself - and often the experience feels more real than the rest of life, not less so.
     And what is the experience? It is an experience that the movement of the music into new formats calls forth and makes obvious. It is of music and art as life’s counterpoint - a presence at the center of our lives, at once personal and objective, that enables us to make sense of the world and our place in it, enriching our lives and helping us to understand them. - Paul Elie

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