Once upon a time, music was something that took effort. It took effort to play music. It took effort to listen to music. A king would act as a patron of the arts, sponsoring the creation of a new piece, and for the performance of a piece. Common people would gather where one or more people performed, or even take part in performances themselves, some even taking part in dancing. If performers stopped performing, the music and dancing would stop.
Contrast this with modern day - post 1940, I suppose. Audio recordings mean music is everywhere, effortless, inescapable. It's quietly piped at you at the mall, interrupted by notices for people who've gotten lost. Your grocery store plays music - differed according to who's shopping at that time of day. Oldies for the elderly during working hours. Pop songs when the employed start to filter though in the evening. Rock songs later on, to keep tiring shoppers and grocery employees awake. Restaurants play music to cover up the silence when there's hardly anybody there. Bars play music, getting louder as the night goes on. Coffee shops also play music.
I spend a lot of time in places that play music. I wonder if these places would play music if it took more effort, or costed them something. Would my favorite cafe employ a musician during all the hours if audio speakers and storage devices (cds, records, ipods, internet streaming audio) didn't exist? But we do have these technologies. Does that mean they should be used without pause?
Scanning my comrades in caffeine consumption at a cafe, I see most of them are wearing headphones. What are they listening to, and why? Do they dislike the cafe's selection - is it a form of protest? Do they like it, but have something they want to hear more urgently? Or have they tired of hearing the cafe's selection, and simply freed their ears to explore new aural terrain?
Leaving a cafe a few days ago, I was annoyed that their music was still playing in my ears. Music was not the reason I went in. I went in because I'm addicted to coffee, and their couch looked comfy. Last night I made a decision: that this will be the week of no earworms. If any music enters my ears, it will be because a human being is putting forth effort, or because I have pressed the play button on something myself. I will not be held hostage.
That means I'll be changing my habits for the next week. I imagine I'll be spending more time at home, outside, and in parks. Coming up with suitable situations for my body will take some mental effort as well as some guessing.
At present I'm enjoying music in a John Cage sort of sense. I'm sitting in a library. I hear people slamming books down on checkout tables, shuffling papers, removing newspapers from racks. A child is thumping his feet in rapid succession away from me, and a woman just coughed.