Steadily throughout the 21st century, I have found myself turning on my computer more often. Whether it is for directions, a simple fact for an essay, or just to check my email, I realize that the internet has become more a part of me and the world around me. Of course, it has been like this for a while. But a few years ago I would consult Oxford for a word definition—now www.dictionary.com has become a “most visited site” on my laptop.
What does this mean for music? The demise of printed reviews and the hard-copy CD market is not too far in our future, and this brings looks of fear and clumps of hair out of the diehard magazine subscribers and LP owners. The classic view of this slope is dreadful, and I can see that viewpoint. Who doesn’t love the smell of a freshly printed review? Who doesn’t feel satisfaction when their CD racks are filled to the brim? But as this inevitable change approaches faster every day, the only thing we can do is adapt. Our wrists may not evolve to fit our keyboards, but bending our elbows a little more won’t hurt too much.
This past Christmas we unwrapped an Amazon Kindle. I was reluctant at first, having a toe in the door of the strictly-printed-book club, but I have warmed up to it. I can read Alex Ross’ articles in the New Yorker the minute they are published—without getting out of a comfortable chair. Lazy, sure, but it’s convenient. Classical music literature is now more accessible to a wider audience. Mémoires de Hector Berlioz, Hallelujah Junction, Begin Again, The Rest Is Noise, Musicophilia—these are all books that now are at the fingertips of people who might not want to sort through their local library system for them. Everyone doesn’t need a Kindle (and frankly, I hope that never happens), but Amazon and other ordering sites are so second nature in this age that a plethora of books are now as easy to find as typing a few words into a search box.
ITunes is the hub of the online-music world. Just a click away, it is easy to spend way more than planned on CDs and videos. I find myself with a gift card in hand only to have its contents gone in a day. While the classical music library wasn’t a covert affair before online music stores, those who don’t spend some time looking could easily miss some of the best recordings. ITunes is fast and accurate. In fact, I timed myself. From the moment I started typing in my ITunes search box, it took me 12 seconds to find Martha Argerich’s recording of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 simply by typing in the word “Argerich.” On Google, it took me 52 seconds to find the same recording using the same word. In a record store, who knows how long that would take? The store might not even carry it. Don’t get me wrong, I love walking into a library or music shop and flipping through their collections, but for the general masses this might not be considered “fun.” Typing 8 letters into a search box might be more up their alley.
Music blogs are also a direct way to reach a large audience with the authors’ viewpoints and recommendations. Blogs can inform, influence, and bring people together all in one central network. With some of the blogs I read this month, I learned of the Seattle Symphony’s opening, the epidemic-seeming wave of polyphony groups, and Alan Pierson’s overtake of the Brooklyn Philharmonic. A reader of music blogs feels more connected and in the loop—a crucial ingredient to the attraction of new listeners (and readers).
I’ll never stop craving the touch of the glossy page of a magazine, and popping a CD into a player will never lose its thrill, but technology has been a vital resource to drawing more listeners to the genre of classical music, and we must accept it. Whether it is a Kindle to spread the words of composers and musicologists, ITunes to quickly connect people to great recordings, or music blogs to keep readers in the loop of the music world, the genre is constantly growing and reaching more people every day. After reading this, keep your library card in your wallet and don’t put those tangible recordings out for the garage sale. Just think about sending your pop-music-listening friend a link to some of those Berlin Philharmonic videos you’ve been watching.