My mom sent me an article that she copied from her college alumni magazine this week. It’s written by Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson, an English professor, on the subject of multitasking and how it’s affected the students, from her view. It’s sort of the usual take on attention span and social skills and all that, mostly all valid points and written in an especially poignant tone, which makes sense, given the source. One particular comment jumps out at me and I’m posting it here because I think it’s relevant.
When students can’t go the few minutes between classes without flipping open cell phones, it’s as though they can’t bear the silence.
Cell phones are an argumentative topic with me, but I think it’s just enough to say that this sentence directly expresses my own sentiment. I don’t mean just students, though I know all too well the situation that this writer must be observing on a frequent basis. Many people I know use their time “in between things” to talk on the phone: driving or walking to or from another engagement, particularly. A phone conversation itself is not an event.
I think, though, that I have to add this to my list of grievances about mp3 players. Previously, the shortlist was:
-Music is not a solitary experience
-sound quality bad
-what about albums?
-what about cover art and jackets?
-headphones are bad for you
Now, it includes:
-Music is an event, it is not something that fills the space.
To elaborate just a little bit, I think that everyone knows what I mean when I say that the idea of a soundtrack has been absorbed into our everyday lives. Music playing somewhere, all the time. But then, it’s just background noise. It’s so available, and so…everywhere…that people don’t notice it. It would be one thing if it was everywhere because people were making it everywhere – singing, performing – but its just coming from speakers in a million places, all the same.
But silence plays a part in music, in individual pieces as well as the entire perception of how it does its work. If I were still in college, I’d do some major research on that. But since I am not, I can just point to Professor Simpson’s quote as an indicator of why it matters.