Ramblings & ephemera

Portable music turns life into cinema

From Farhad Manjoo’s “iPod: I love you, you’re perfect, now change” (Salon: 23 October 2006):

Levy writes that when this happens, the music becomes a “soundtrack” for the scenery, which is a good way to put it. The iPod turns ordinary life — riding the bus, waiting in line at the post office, staring at a spreadsheet for 12 hours a day — into cinema. Levy describes the work of sociologist Michael Bull, who, when studying the habits of fans of the iPod’s great ancestor the Sony Walkman, found that people liked to think of themselves “as imaginary movie stars” playing out scenes dictated by the music in their ears. One subject who listened to music from spaghetti westerns said that the Walkman turned him into a “verbal bounty hunter” bent on firing “short cool blasts of verbal abuse” at his co-workers. The science fiction writer William Gibson once described the Walkman as having done “more to change human perception than any virtual reality gadget. I can’t remember any technological experience that was quite so wonderful as being able to take music and move it through landscape and architecture.” The iPod, with its greater capacity, alters perception even more profoundly; when the right song comes on, the world actually feels different.

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