“Inert and dead, but very roomy”: Open Universe and Digital Music Expansion

Gravity may not be strong enough to hold the universe back. If that is the case, in Bill Bryson’s words, “the universe will keep racing away forever until everything is so far apart that there is no chance of material interactions, so that the universe becomes a place that is inert and dead, but very roomy.”

This model is called an open universe. It implies that the expansion that started with the Big Bang continues on and perhaps indefinitely. Sounds like the Internet, our digital universe. Bits and bits and bits keep coming in various forms. One of the most popular, as we know, is music.

The open model says that material interactions will become less and less as the universe keeps racing way. If you look at the new arrivals on Bandcamp, they are updating constantly. An album on the first page one day is pushed farther back until it’s off of the list. It can get to a point where the listens of a song stagnate. The digital expansion pushes the song away from future interactions with users – out of sight out of mind. Only by an intentional search can one sometimes find these scattered bits.

And that is for exceptions. As a rule, the majority of music will remain scattered in the digital ether. That is the cost of the open universe model. We have to realize that. People are not stopping any time soon. Music will continue to be made and uploaded in digital formats.

A large portion of music has to be left behind for the continual stretching of content. As music is translated from bits to sound, other tracks will remain online as bits and not much else.

Inert and dead, but very roomy.


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