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How Pop Music Connects in an Over-Connected World

Try as I might to enforce my “no email on Sundays” rule, I keep breaking it. Knowing that the messages are piling up while I’m trying to watch some football or walk the dogs makes me crazy. The thought of going back to work Monday with a huge backlog of messages is just too depressing to contemplate. Such is life in the over-connected world.

Discussions of this problem fascinate me, so when this story arrived (via email, of course) on how pop music makes connections in an over-connected world, I thought it worth sharing. From Fader:

Last Saturday night at London’s Royal Academy, I watched two men attempt to play the internet like an instrument. More specifically, it was a performance called Network Ensemble, which involved taking collated network data and bringing it to life in sound. Even more specifically, it involved a lot of plugging and unplugging wires, and it sounded pretty much like the screech of when you tried to connect your dial-up modem to get on MSN Messenger or AIM in 2000. It was a cool concept, in the way it physicalized the mystical swarms of network data out there in the universe, but I couldn’t help but feel there was an emotional quality to all those connections that was missing in the performance. Something about all that data whizzing around is very human, and I wasn’t sure if the takeaway from the robotic performance was supposed to be that I was horrified by the amount of signals we’re constantly pinging into the sky, or heartened by all those connections people are able to make with one another. Either way, my mind was taken off it on the way out of gallery, when someone in the foyer—not to mention, two cars and a closing-down butcher’s I passed on the journey home—was blasting “Hotline Bling.” And it was then that I really felt the internet being brought to life.

Living in a world in which you’re constantly sending and receiving data doesn’t really sound like a cyber drone or a high-pitched whine; it sounds like having a gossip about what your ex is up to—because thanks to social media, you know all about their lives, even when they haven’t called you directly in years. “Hotline Bling” makes me feel all those bitter, FOMO feelings that come with being online too much: like seeing a new guy tagged in your ex-girlfriend’s Instagram and feeling jealous; like reading yourself into an old friend’s subtweet and freaking out, but being too proud to ask about it; like ever since I left the city you/ started wearing less and going out more. It’s the jewel in the crown of an artist who, as Slate put it, “ever since the drunk-dialing rhapsody ‘Marvin’s Room’ on Take Care, [has] claimed the laurels of the 21st-century bard of telephony.”

Keep reading. It gets good.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38346 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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