It’s the time of year for saving money!
Bum-Bum… Bum-Bum… Bum-Bum…
Who can forget the opening scene from the movie Jaws, Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece scored by the incomparable John Williams? Simple in its execution, the haunting first few bars, played faster and faster and with more authority, convey drama and the overriding sense something bad is about to happen. Which of course it does. Enter “Bruce” the shark. Remove the music and this opening scene would be nothing more than a girl skinny dipping in the ocean on a warm summer night.
Movies and television have always used music as a means to evoke emotion, heighten tension and scare the bejesus out of us when required. Music, however, has been around much longer than movies and certainly television. Who knows, maybe music has been around since Cro-Magnon Man first beat a dinosaur bone on the wall of the cave to relieve boredom? Who knows, maybe he was trying to impress Cro-Magnon Woman?
Scientists estimate music has existed for thousands of years. Primitive flues made from bone have been found dating back 40,000 years or more. A 4000-year-old Sumerian clay tablet was found containing musical notations and instructions on how to play an instrument similar to a lyre. The oldest known song is generally considered to be “Hurrian Hymn No. 6” which was composed in cuneiform sometime in the 14th Century B.C.
In more “modern” times we have the classics – music by Bach, Beethoven, and a list of classical composers so broad and wide they cannot all be listed here. Bee-Bop in the 50’s, Rock and Roll, Country & Western, Jazz, R&B, Rap, even local musical idioms like Beach Music, seldom played outside the “Grand Strand” of the Carolina coast have entertained for decades.
People worldwide have danced, sung and listened for so long it is inconceivable and unthinkable to imagine a world without hearing some type of music.
What would the world look and sound like if we had no music?
We would not be going to the concert hall on Saturday night to hear the symphony. No rock and roll concerts. No jazz ensembles. No pickup truck, get the girl country tunes, no bass driven rap, no improvised or smooth jazz – nope, no none of that.
Imagine the loss of jobs that would be the result. No more master craftsmen painstakingly and lovingly creating instruments. No professional musicians to impress and entertain us with their skill and devotion to a single cause – that cause being music.
I suppose people like Edgar Villchur, Saul Marantz and the other legacy founders of our hobby could have lent their talents elsewhere. Maybe modern inventors like John Curl, Dan D’Agostino and all the others would have made better mousetraps with something besides a means to magnificently play a recording.
We would not even have a recording industry. No multi track recording studios. No recording engineers amazing us with how they constructed a recording to give the listener imaging, dynamics, clarity and a lifelike portrayal of musical sound.
Perhaps worst of all (he says laughingly), we’d have no audio magazines, web sites, and no one to write for any of them. Perish the thought of that!
Here is an experiment to try. Every audiophile has a schedule of how often they listen to their system. Maybe it might be every day, every other day, perhaps on the weekend, or some type of regular basis. If you listen daily, or at least five times a week, play no music for two weeks. No time with the system. None. Tune the satellite radio in the car to a talk only station. No movies where you might hear notes on a page being played. No TV with catchy opening songs. Don’t even sing to yourself.
See if you can make it for those two weeks. As an experiment, and in preparation for writing this article, I tried to do so myself. This was also, I reasoned, a perfect opportunity for several projects I had around the house that could be an excellent diversion. I wanted to paint the hallway from my kitchen to the garage. I wanted to install some accent lighting above the cabinets on one wall of my kitchen. I had all this stuff to do that would easily occupy my time for two weeks at least. Maybe more.
I made it to the second day before turning on the Sonos I have downstairs. Perhaps most interestingly, I didn’t even think about it. I was busy prepping the hallway for painting and without so much as a second thought, grabbed the iPhone from my pocket, hit the Sonos app, selected my favorite smooth jazz station and went back to work. It never dawned on me I had failed my experiment. Such is my indoctrination and possibly even dependence on music.
Music has been a part of our lives for so long we cannot imagine a world without it. We have special songs having special meaning to couples in love. We have songs that embolden us to do things we cannot imagine doing. We have songs that make movies and television more interesting and captivating. Best of all, we have wonderful music, wonderfully reproduced on audio systems as much a work of art as a collection of transistors, diodes and capacitors.
As audiophiles, a world without music is categorically unthinkable. It is a fundamental part of our lives. We don’t even want a world without music. We’ll easily put up with all the songs we don’t like, all the genres holding little favor, all the times we hit next on the app in an effort to find a better song. We’ll do all that not especially because we are audiophiles with an expensive and remarkable audio system. We do so because music is essentially something we cannot do without.
Imagine a world without music. Scary thought. Fortunately for everyone, we don’t have to. Music will be with us forever.
The Silent Movies would have been totally silent with no piano player in the theater. I remember going to the Science and Industry Museum in Chicago as a kid and going to the Nickelodean and watch the old movies with piano sounds in the background. I do think we are much better off today and amazing how much a part of the movies music has become.
A world without music I would find unbearable. I do wonder, though, if its constant availability has devalued it to us. What would the world be like if we could hear music only from live musicians? Would we appreciate music more deeply? Or is it the opportunity to study and hear a piece over and over that increases our appreciation?
Interesting question, Mike. Perhaps the answer is a little of both?
Yeah, Paul, that’s my answer, too.