I tried to start reading some of David Byrne’s book, “How Music Works”, opening the page indiscriminately at a section that was discussing Marshall McLuhan’s acoustic and visual distinctions of the world. It isn’t for me. However, I will give it a couple of more attempts because I think Byrne a musical genius and I am certain that he can tell me many things I might want to know.
If there is a difference between today and the 18th century, I think it partly resides in the way we experience things. Music, for example, can be experienced anywhere these days. In the 18th century, you had to go and watch the music and there was necessarily an involvement that was more than simple listening. The orchestra, the crowds, the violin that was out of tune, a bravura performance, the person with a cough—the experience was far more than the music by itself. This was true of every performance—you could not distance yourself from it.
I am certain Byrne has thought about this. In a broader context, if one’s interaction with music was greater in the 18th century, was that not also the case with everything? The question is whether our lives are removed, sort of encased as it were, because our existence can almost be hermetic, or for lack of a better word, digital? Does it matter that we are so removed from this more “life-like” experience. For my part, I know that furniture design and manufacture was never better than in the 18th century, but what does that mean?
I read an article about a snow boarder who does split boarding in the most inhospitable and death defying locations around the world. His goal is to confront himself physically and mentally to the fullest extent possible. To me, it seems like a crazy way to live, but for him it is life with a capital “L” and it certainly is not digitalized. Ultimately, I believe life is about going to the fullest extent. For a musician, I can see it being live performances. For me, I love not only knowing about 18th century furniture but buying, selling, touching and being amazed by it. It never ceases to open my eyes.
All the best,