Site and Sound

Here’s an essay I wrote in connection with Rewind Remix Replay: Design, Music & Everyday Experience, an exhibition at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, through May 23, 2010. It’s available over there as well, but only as a PDF. So I figured I’d post it here. It’s a bit of an unusual piece for me, and I’m not certain how well I carried it off, but it was fun to write. I welcome feedback…


One Home, Sixteen Objects, and the Things We Listen To Now

Surely the first decade of the 21st century will be remembered as a pivotal time in the history of listening. But it won’t be because of a new genre that burst on the scene, the way rock, rap, punk, even disco, changed the music we listen to. It will be because of the objects and technologies that changed the way we listen. Such transitions always seem abrupt (especially as they’re treated in the popular press) but unfold more gradually for most real-life listeners.

So as the decade wound down, I decided to conduct an inventory of objects and devices for music-listening in my own home. I’m more of a music fan than a gadget fan, which leads me to embrace music-oriented technology faster than any other sort (I owned an iPod before I owned a cell phone). At the same time, I can be slow to chuck old formats and objects just because something new has appeared; possibly the more dated relics of twentieth-century listening technology cluttering my home ought to have been discarded by now. But since analog and digital coexist in this particular environment, it’s an opportunity for a useful one-listener object ethnography. Read more