So Day 9 of my 12 day qualifying exam period just ended. I’m doing pretty well, to the point where I feel comfortable saying I’ve just about finished. Maybe a few revisions tomorrow, maybe not.
All three of my exam questions concern digital media in some way: a lit review/methodology of online ethnography, an ontology/phenomenology of digital music, and the changes to the musical commodity in digital media. For the last 3 years or so, this is what I’ve done. Digital media, digital music, online culture, online music, blah blah blah. And then I realized, about 6 months ago, that I’m completely sick of it. Beyond the practical difficulty of studying a moving target, I found that, quite simply, I have just stopped caring. I’ve stopped caring about the cultures popping up around digital media, I’ve stopped caring about the technologies of digital media, and most distressingly I’ve stopped caring about the music I encounter via digital media. Even music I used to love. Even music that I currently love when I see it performed live.
I can’t exhaustively explain why this is. I’m just really not totally sure. I’ve dealt with a lot of the relevant issues in my papers on ontology/phenomenology and object/commodity status. But nowhere in those papers do I attack digital media the way I find myself doing in conversations with my peers and day-to-day engagements with music.
As an experiment, a desparate attempt to reinvigorate my passion for music, I’ve been exploring the question of format in these past few days (I suppose there’s nothing like dealing with a topic you hate – and only that topic – for an extended period to get you thinking of evasive maneuvers), and the one that’s resonating with me right now is the 7″. I don’t doubt that in a few weeks, when I’ve amassed a sizeable collection of these little bastards, I’ll suddenly say to myself “WTF? Why did I think it was a good idea to invest in a format that requires constant interaction and, quite honestly, discourages extended listening sessions?” I mean, really. These things hold, what, 10-15 minutes of music at most? And still, I can’t help but feel incredibly excited about this ridiculous inconvenience.
Maybe it’s because I have to physically intervene on a constant basis to keep the music playing. Maybe it’s because the time constraints don’t let me sit back and space out. Maybe it’s because I’m a consumer whore who uses objects to make my pathetic life more meaningful. Probably a bit of them all. But regardless of the reason, and regardless of how long this infatuation lasts, I’m really excited about listening to music in a way that I haven’t experienced in far too long.