Thursday, April 24, 2014
igor stravinsky, 1936
in the domain of music the importance and influence of its dissemination by mechanical means, such as the record and the radio—tho redoubtable triumphs of modern science (which will probably undergo still further development)—make them worthy of the closest investigation. the facilities that they offer to composers and executants alike for reaching great numbers of listeners of acquainting themselves with works they have not heard, are obviously indisputable advantages. but one must not overlook that such advantages are attended by serious danger. in john sebastian bach's day it was necessary for him to walk ten miles to a neighboring town to hear buxxtehude play his works. today, anyone living no matter where, has only to turn a knob or put on a record to hear what he likes. indeed, it is in just this incredible facility, this lack of necessary for any effort, that the evil of this so-called progress lies. for in music, more than in any other branch of art, understanding is given only to those who make an active effort. passive receptivity is not enough. to listen to certain combinations of sound and automatically become accustomed to them does not necessarily imply that they have been heard and understood. for one can listen without hearing, just as one can look without seeing. the absence of active effort and the liking required for this facility make for laziness. the radio has gotten rid of the necessity which existed in bach's day for getting out of one's armchair. nor are listeners any longer impelled to play themselves, or to spend time on learning an instrument in order to acquire a knowledge of musical literature. the (wireless and the gramophone) do all that. and thus the active faculties of listeners, without which one cannot assimilate music, gradually become atrophied from lack of use. this creeping paralysis entails very serious consequences. over saturated with sounds, blase even before combinations of the utmost variety, listeners fall into a kind of torpor which deprives them of all power of discrimination and makes them indifferent to the qualities of the pieces presented. it is more than likely that such irrational overfeeding will make them lose all appetite and relish for music. there will, of course, always be exceptions, individuals who will know how to select from the mass those things that appeal to them. but for the majority of listeners there is every reason to fear that, far from developing a love and understanding of music, the modern methods of dissemination will have a diametrically opposite effect—that is to say, the the production of indifference, inability to understand, to appreciate, or to undergo any worthy reaction.