Monday, July 02, 2018

On the threshold of a nightmare


Reading Marc Cushman's overview of the Moody Blues' most fructiferous period Long Distance Voyagers prompted me to return to the band's 1969 On The Threshold Of A Dream album. The perceptivity of the lyrics of the opening track In the Beginning is not entirely coincidental: session engineer Derek Varnals explains in the book that "Back in those days, about the only thing that was computerized were banks, which was the concept of what [Graham] Edge was writing about". This computerization of banks spawned the database technologies that power today's surveillance culture. So this late-60s lyric presages the insidious data harvesting of social media corporations:
I've miles
And miles
Of files
Pretty files of your forefather's fruit
And now to suit our
Great computer,
You're magnetic ink.
Long Distance Voyagers is much more than a priceless gold mine of Moody Blues trivia. As a snapshot of a zeitgeist, it provides much food for thought. Yes, eccentricity, excess and creative pretension abounded in the 1960s and '70s. But beneath them lay an understanding of the real problems and a sincere, if often misguided, passion to change things. What a contrast with today, where the activism of our arts tastemakers is limited to endless online rants about the perils of Brexit and Trump, with not a single rant, yet alone a call to action, directed at the calamity of a smart phone-fixated generation trapped 24/7 in the toxic wilderness of social media. Even worse, our tastemakers are proactively encouraging the arts to chase its audience down to the bottom of the social media pit: it is as if the counterculture had not only stayed silent, but had endorsed Reagan, Thatcher and Nixon and all they stood for.

Classical music has a selfish obsession with young audiences. Yet it has not shown the slightest concern about the disenfranchisement of the young - and older - people who are having their brains rewired by disruptive technologies. Long after Brexit and Trump have been relegated to footnotes in history books, future generations will still be suffering from the urban blight and associated social conflict caused by the decimation of urban centres by predatory tax-evading online retailers working hand-in-hand with data harvesting social media networks. £250 million vanity concert halls will have as much relevance to these deracinated city centres as Noah's Ark. We are on the threshold of a nightmare, yet nobody seems to care. Please do not share if you agree.

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1 comment:

Pliable said...

Relevant - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-44640959