We're not always early technology adapters in our household, but it was a pretty techy Christmas for us. Mrs. D and the kids all have received new mp3 players in the past week. I was setting up all the tunes today and downloading various things to their respective players tonight. The kids only wanted Beatles and a mix CD that their beloved Uncle Stinger made for them a few years back, while Mrs. D wanted her usual assortment of classic R & B, Stevie Ray Vaughan and a few other faves, leaving room for a few podcasts.
As the family music obsessive, I view this development with some ambivalence. The good news is that the family can choose the music they want and don't always have to listen to my random selections -- my mp3 player is liable to deliver Peggy Lee and Run-DMC back to back at any moment. Still, there was a moment when all of us were listening to our respective mp3 players and that meant that four different songs were playing in our house. Musical taste is idiosyncratic and utterly individual, but hearing music is a communal experience. It's why people go to rock concerts, to the symphony or even gather around a talented busker on the skyway. It's why some of my favorite memories in college were sitting around on a lazy afternoon with my friends as we spun vinyl records. Music is an experience to share and the best music can bring joy to just about everyone. In fact, if you ask a musician what his (or her) primary purpose is, chances are that the response will be something about sharing the joy of performance. So while I'm delighted that everyone in my family can now take their tunes to go, I hope that we don't forget that the wonder of music is in the sharing.