Fifty Years: A Thought Experiment

Here is a thought experiment brought to the table by Soren Kierkegaard in The Present Age:

“If we could suppose for a moment that there was a law which did not forbid people talking, but simply ordered that everything which was spoken should be treated as though it had happened fifty years ago, the gossips would be done for, they would be in despair. On the other hand, it would not really interfere with any one who could really talk. That an actor should have mispronounced a word could only be interesting if there was something interesting in the mispronunciation itself, in which case the fifty years make no difference…”

Kierkegaard’s test works well within musical endeavors.

Say we think of bands from fifty years ago, from the sixties. Surely we will talk about the band’s revenue from LP sales and numbers for gig attendances? Or perhaps they are on the tips of our tongues because their music connects with something uniquely human that we all experience?

Even take recent topics like social media’s affect on music. If we pushed that back fifty years ago, what would we say of its impact? Will maximizing followers through click bait be the highlight? Maybe it will be that we were able to follow a musician’s process that embodied vulnerability and generosity in a refreshing way?

The important bits rise to the surface from the depths of time. Meanwhile, the inconsequential time sensitive elements remain on the sea floor.

What rises to the surface deserves our utmost attention. It is what we focus on in music regardless of time, place, or technology. That is where our work lies.

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