Thursday, August 05, 2004

Live More Musically

A thought-provoking article from Andy Crouch:
[W]hen was the last time the fans, rather than Beyonce Knowles or a barbershop quartet, sang the national anthem at a professional baseball game? The last time that Christmas carolers came to your door? The last time you invited friends to take turns playing the piano and singing after dinner? Only a few decades ago these experiences were not uncommon. Now they seem, especially to the young and the urban, faintly absurd. To be sure, music still matters to us. It's just that we have forgotten how to sing.

The great irony is that music itself has made us forget. Professionally produced music, in all its Starbucks-counter abundance, offers an effortless fidelity that our own music can never achieve. There is a big difference between playing a CD and playing a fugue. One is instantly rewarding, the other takes time and patience. One satisfies, the other requires a sacrifice. One is godlike -- Yo-Yo Ma or Radiohead play flawlessly at your command -- while the other reminds you just how small a creature you are. One is a purchase, the other is a practice.

For a musician, to live more musically means to embrace practices -- disciplines, rewarding only in the long run, that no one would pay for in the short run. But the core doctrine of consumer culture, reinforced a thousand times a day, is the belief that we can satisfy our deepest longings with purchases instead. Want to live more musically? Buy a CD. Want to 'live strong'? Nike has a pair of sneakers for you.


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