Thursday, 29 December 2011

Internet > Brain => Frustration

One of the best things about the internet is that an inconceivably vast amount of music is available to listen to at any moment. Well that's what I've heard anyway. What I've actually experienced is that "inconceivably vast" is quite literally true and very frustrating: if you can't get your head around all of this music how do you value it, treasure it, really experience it?

Before the internet, a lover of music had  his own collection of recordings, gathered over years. I've bought CD's on the basis of what I heard on radio shows, concerts, recommendations from friends and articles by music critics. The result is my collection. There's considerably more than a thousand CD's in there but I know them all, have listened to each many times, have fallen in and out of love with some of them. I can get my head around my collection.

So despite the fact that I could find almost anything on-line, I'll usually browse my collection for something to listen to. I add new CD's only slowly now, perhaps a couple every month, each new addition carefully considered as to whether it merits its place there. At most I only have an hour or so each day to listen to music so only good stuff get's in.

[Warning: technical interlude!]

Recently I decided to rip all of my CD's on to a hard drive (a NAS in the basement to be exact) to make my collection accessible from anywhere in the house or in the car. After much consideration I've installed a SONOS music system in the house which sounds beautiful and is wonderfully easy to use. Ripping CD's is tiresome, but dBpoweramp takes much of the pain away through error checking and almost fail-proof addition of meta-data. And I rip in FLAC format as there is no loss of sound quality and it can easily be converted to other formats.

[End of technical interlude]

But I'll say no more on the technology. I've suffered through conversations with people telling me all about the technology in their music systems and nothing about the music. So let me tell you about four CD's from my collection I've listened to today:
  • Graceland by Paul Simon. I used to have this on cassette back in the 80's and it accompanied me on solitary car trips and long transatlantic flights. I picked up the CD while standing in the checkout queue at Chapters last week and I've been playing it ever since.
    "These are the days of miracle and wonder and don't cry baby, don't cry."
  • Moffou by Salif Keita. Graceland led me from South Africa to Mali (my "path was marked by the stars of the southern hemisphere") and I re-listened to this wonderful recording. I think I discovered this CD a few years ago listening to Gerry Godley's show on LyricFM, it just bursts with freshness and energy. I must check out what Keita has done recently.
  • Song and Poems for Solo Cello by Philip Glass. Late night, still house, glass of scotch - turn the volume up and let the deep vibrations of the cello make the windows sing in their frames.
  • Des Roses et des Orties by Frances Cabrel. Not his best album but still rather good, and one my francophone partner-in-life and I could both enjoy on the drive home from Outaouais to Montreal today.

Beyond economics: closing the EURO's democratic deficit

Like most Irish people I've always been broadly in favour of the EU project despite having only a vague idea of where its leading.The EU has brought economic benefits to Ireland and been a force for the liberalisation of our society. But it's always bothered me that the EU's democratic roots run so shallow; very few EU citizens have any understanding of how its institutions work, how laws are made and decisions are reached, or what any of the treaties actually mean. In Ireland, members of the EU parliament are usually elected for reasons of local politics that have nothing to do with Europe. And recent referenda have shown that the citizens of the EU have no real sense of being part of a European entity; each referendum is debated on the single basis of whether its a good economic deal for the country.

Now we see the culmination of this democratic deficit: governments will do anything to avoid a popular referendum on Europe as they know it will almost certainly be defeated. This is certainly the case in Ireland and Greece at the moment, and probably in most of Western Europe too. The EU project, worthy as it may be, does not have popular support. In fact, if not legally, it no longer has democratic legitimacy.

So while I remain broadly in favour of the EU project, we need to find a way to engage the population of Europe with its aims now - or completely remodel the EU to reflect what its citizens actually want. Whatever the hell that might be...