The Man Who Stopped an Orchestra

Imagine if someone stood up during a concert in the 1800’s. This person’s mission is to force the orchestra to stop playing amidst the most roaring finale, instruments blaring at their peak. Those seated next to him glare. What a strange fellow. Maybe one woman is brave enough to hush him back to his seat.

It is near impossible for this man, at his seat, to stop the orchestra from playing. The only thing he could do is exit the hall. Even so, the music would still persist in his absence. Play it would until the end, out of the man’s control.

If that same gentleman is transported to the 21st century and given any sort of music playing device, he could stop the orchestra with a click. Of course it is not an orchestra he is stopping but a recording. Regardless, the fact remains: he can stop what was once out of his control.

He can listen to a piece and stop it when he uses the restroom, when he starts talking to a friend, when he answers the knock at the door, and so on. Then, whenever, he likes, the music can play where it left off.

It is one thing to be able to play music everywhere, another to have it bend to our will. A stop button makes this possible. Acting like a light switch, music can be on or off. The ability to stop music is a part of our modern means of listening – as common as electricity itself.

I wonder if, because of its regularity, we take this ability for granted. What would happen if we lost the stop button? How would our listening experiences change?

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