As is usual, last year ended and this one has already begun with scads of jeremiads on the death of this or that. One that got me particularly worked up in the final two weeks of 2010, even though I had already heard it many times before in equally unconvincing blather, was that the album had died as a format. But at least all those grossly exaggerated death reports tempered my annoyance with Rhapsody for not including a single contemporary music recording on its list of the 50 best albums of 2010.
Having not yet heard any of Rhapsody’s picks, I suppose it would be unfair of me to say that any of the at least 50 amazing albums of contemporary music released this year which I actually have heard stand up to the gems on that list. (Here are some of them.) Since I always try to eschew ranking, it seems futile to engage in such contests, but at least their list (or a similar list that any one of us could come up with) is solid ammunition against the folks who claim that albums are dead. As most scientists know, it’s a heck of a lot easier to prove something exists than that it doesn’t. If there were 50 albums put out last year that someone thought were amazing and I can name another 50 that I thought were equally fabulous, that means there are already 100 out of who knows how many albums that were released last year. If the album was dead, there wouldn’t be 100 albums period, much less 100 wonderful ones out of who knows how many less than extraordinary, but potentially still worth hearing, ones. But as most scientists know, it’s a heck of a lot easier to prove something exists than that it doesn’t.
Last week, in between watching numerous foreign films, drinking several extraordinary bottles of wine, and doing my best to stay indoors away from the piles of snow that didn’t get adequately shoveled away in my neighborhood, I finally finished a movement of a piece of music that took me nearly two years to write, even though it lasts a mere 90 seconds. But those 90 seconds contain what I hope will be the seeds for other ideas that will lead to a substantial multi-movement work, although plotting such a goal is perhaps an extraordinary act of futility if the spin-doctors are right and albums are gone and people can only pay attention to short, single-movement content.
But it seems to me that worrying about fitting in to the zeitgeist is the only thing that ties any of us to this particular zeitgeist, or any other for that matter. Ironically finding your own place in any time can only really occur once you stop worrying about it, become comfortable where you are, and figure out how to be a gracious host when guests come over. And, as for the folks who say that it is no longer possible to do that, in a sea of possibility and creativity it is very easy to ignore them.