Resonant Thoughts: Paul Morley’s “A Sound Mind” (2020)

Everyone could find what they wanted now, quickly and efficiently, guided by genial, anonymous calculations, by ever-increasing playlists, by a proliferation of genres that almost bureaucratically processed and filed music for driving, sleeping, motivating, studying, eating, chilling, isolation, concentrating, shopping, swapping, dancing, night-time, Thursday. It became a world that was looking for user-friendly tips and advice, not manifestos, essays and rants, a world of irregular uniformity and conglomerated mediocrity, where the idea of quality and meaning was quickly replaced by convenience. […]

I realize that somehow music has become data, rather than knowledge, experience, emotion—but what data! As long as you can keep your wits about you and begin sifting all this data with prior knowledge of at least some music history. […]

Do we lose that sense of the greater purpose of music—once it is set inside the flat, if relentless and very helpful, music services—as this other language, this alien presence taking on the unknown, defending us against all kinds of threats, danger and tension? Will this near-monstrous availability of music, the over-engineered tethering of everything into one place, lead to stronger, more innovative music, and more awareness of its deeper powers, or weaken and break it up into mere patterns of fun, a bland, near-perfunctory amenity increasingly adrift from any rooted, evolving artistic, cultural or social context, except when the idea of ‘rebellion’, or resistance—the transmission of cool—is merely part of an inherited game plan, an established formula?” […]

Paul Morley, A Sound Mind (2020)

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