Thursday, January 26, 2006

For a Song

I'm reading Erik Larson's book Devil in the White City right now. For anyone unfamiliar, it's the story of the Chicago World's Fair and alternates between narrating the history of the fair's chief architect and a serial killer preying on the fair's attendees. There's lots of interesting facts and information about the culture of the 1890's but one of the things I thought was really interesting is how it repeatedly mentions people singing. They boarded the Ferris wheel and started singing together as it began to rotate... They left the fair singing... He sang to himself as the train pulled away...

I think it's really neat to picture a time so different from our own and yet to see that there was still a love of music in the hearts of everyday people. Before the endless choices of the modern record industry (Rock, Pop, Rap, Alternative, Oldies, Country, R&B, Hip Hop, Easy Listening, Heavy Metal) there was a common bond of songs, mostly patriotic, that everyone knew and felt free to sing alone or together whenever they were so inspired. As I read this on my morning commute the contrast was quite striking. Instead of one person singing a tune and all nearby being welcomed to join in, each person on the train has a playlist that only he or she is privy to. Back then music brought people together as a unifier, today - in the world of the Walkman, Discman, and the iPod craze - it's become about isolation.

Oh For a Thousand Tongues to Sing...

Consider this a half-thought out thought for now. Feel free to comment.

3 comments:

Greg said...

Great insight, Lisa. I actually read that book last fall, but I didn't pick up on all the singing!

Beth said...

Hi,
I bumped over here from James' blog, and happen to be reading that book right now. I hadn't really thought about the singing, but it's definitely noticeable (and worth consideration) when you point it out. Anyway, just thought I'd say hi.
~Beth

lisa :) said...

Hi and welcome Beth! Any friend of a friend is a friend of mine. Thanks for commenting too. :) This was one of those topics that I could've written eight pages on but decided just to stick with one paragraph. I think people easily overlook how powerful music can be and this was my attempt at an astute observation on the unifying/isolating property of songs. Enjoy the book and let me know what you think when you finish!