February 11, 2011 / Mediation, Uncategorized
In 1991, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to the disturbing psycho thriller, The …
April 26, 2011
Music has interacted with other media for decades—from film scores to television theme songs, radio music stations to news stories and podcasts—music rarely stands alone. When music does stand “alone,” as in perhaps the case of music for the sake of music such as with live symphony or rock music performances, it remains ever mediated. Jeremy Begbie, who has written much on theology through the arts, describes the experience of music as being “mediated through an extensive range of personal and socio-cultural determinants—upbringing, conventions, education, etc.” Listening to music is influenced by a person’s cultural location. Not only is music interacting with various media, and also mediated through the individual and the mass experiences, but the changing landscape of technological media directly shapes the experience of music—both its creation and reception. Listening to music is influenced by sonic location.
Amazon.com recently unveiled its plan to allow users 5Gb of free space in a service they’re calling Cloud Drive. This service allows anyone who signs up to stream music, or videos, or other files to a computer or Android phone (not iProducts to date) for absolutely free. With the relationship between performer and audience already distanced by various “middlemen,”—production, marketing, digital players, etc.—the movement from physical ownership of say, a record or CD, towards the virtual space of the Cloud Drive has an almost unifying effect. That is to say, the listener is one less “middleman” from the artist as music purchasing and ownership become less material. With Cloud Drive, music fans enjoy a straight shot from purchasing an MP3 online to accessing it anywhere with a single download. Much like email, Facebook, or other online services, the Amazon music cloud becomes a virtual sonic location where files can be accessed by virtually any digital device. (Again, Apple products excluded).
This movement from physical to virtual is not new or even unique to Amazon.com and the Cloud Drive, but is familiarly accepted as the technological trend for most everything, from online banking to such newer innovations as the Kindle and iPad. Social space tends to be shifting from tangible locations to virtual ones, at an incredibly rapid pace. Might this transformation be conceived of as spiritual? Or more broadly put, what are the spiritual implications of a more virtual world?
In his book Virtual Faith, theologian Tom Beaudoin writes the following: “Imagination allows us to make and receive infinite interpretations of how symbols represent God’s presence in the world.” Spiritually speaking, music and other media’s transformation to intangible forms invite Christian consumers to creatively imagine new understandings of a living faith. Sharing virtual media might change not only the way a person participates in listening to music, but the way she participates in imaging the divine. Virtual media perpetuates new language and metaphors for understanding the human condition, and therefore to the Christian, new mediums for experiencing God.
As physical items become virtual and accessible without a material counterpart, people—including Christians—find themselves physically owning fewer things. The rich man whom Jesus advises give up all that he own and follow him suddenly has “only” to forfeit a few electronic goods and he’s free to pursue a life with Christ. Is a movement towards fewer material possessions actually a movement towards less? And as the saying goes, is less more? Even if having less means being more Christ-like, Jesus’ words remain challenging to the modern Christian: “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Is there Cloud Drive access in the clouds of heaven?