No escape: 57 days to Commencement

Not having headphones for two whole days after a concert is very painful. Besides wanting to relive the performance through my song collection and fans’ YouTube videos, I needed the concentrated sound headphones provide in order to transcribe some audio. For short stints I could borrow a friend’s, but that wasn’t enough for me who’d worked on projects overnight while looping an album five times.

I’d lost an escape route. With headphones, I could always plan on relaxing to some music while I wrote or read. With headphones, I could de-stress myself with YouTube. With headphones, my brain could experience something more than words and graphics all the time.

But headphones have only been around for a few decades. What kind of escape did people back then crave? A book, or something in nature? Maybe, not knowing the thrills a personal music player can give, they didn’t long for anything.

If live concerts and the radio were all we could listen to, we’d probably have a different impression of music. Perhaps it’d be more communal and less individualistic. If three generations at a Thanksgiving dinner cannot find a single song in common besides the national anthem, the loss of cultural cohesion is rather sad. In Asia the young and old seem to know — and how to perform — the same classic songs. But now we watch our own movies on separate screens and listen to our own songs with customized playlists. The fragmented media market can give each one of us exactly what we want to hear, when we want it, and if that right is taken away by something so small as missing headphones, we get frustrated.

In the end, experiencing the world without music was only slightly distressing as I knew the loss was temporary. But when I plugged my headphones back in today, liquid sound poured into my ears. I revelled.

Two years ago on this day I was also thinking about music. Here’s my post on realizing what it means to be deaf. 


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