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Olivia Haughton

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Picture the scene, the year is 1925, you're in the rather plush lounge of your family home, let's say, for arguments sake, you're reclining on a sage green chaise longue. The man of the house flicks through the record collection and slips on a classy Gershwin number before settling down to an evening of some good ol' music appreciation.

Call me a reactionary but there's something romantic (and I don't mean the mushy kind) about taking the time to appreciate your music for an evening. In our 21st century mentality music plays a far more functional role in our lives; unwilling to spend a minute in silence or immersed in our thoughts we plug ourselves in to mp3 players, phones, computers, coke cans.... you name it, we can listen to music on it. We're too wrapped up in our musical worlds to smile as we pass a stranger in the street. I hear you gasp in horror at the prospect of making contact with fellow humans unknown, but in my defence I come from a quaint little village in the country where this is the norm (I may well have shot myself in the foot by admitting this piece of information, but hear me out). However, even there - in the deepest darkest climes of our country - the infiltration of earphone syndrome is beginning to rear its ugly head. Those cherished smiles are now fewer and further between.

Our hunger for music is not new; remember the boombox era? Of course you don't since most of us were born post 1985 and were mere tots at the height of its reign. Since we aren't American we could never really pull off the uber-cool required for ghettoblaster possession anyway, we English are far more attuned with the passive nature of the lowly iPod. But I digress. We all know the classic 1990s 'boys 'n' boombox going to play ball' scenario - think Will Smith in the intro to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Once, it seemed music was for sharing, now we live in a world of little insular music cocoons, observant of nothing beyond the bubble. Hell, I nearly ran over a 'plugged-in' pedestrian earlier as she sauntered across the road oblivious to the peril she was putting herself in. I sat, foot resting on accelerator, toying with the urge to eliminate one of this new breed. Needless to say, I resisted the temptation and merely threw a scowl her way to mark my distaste at her modernity.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not entirely opposed to the produce of our technologically developing world with regards to listening to music. I'm now the proud owner of an iPod nano, finally purchased four hundred years after the craze began. But I'm loathe to buy my CDs as downloads, and, for that matter, select only the tracks I want. Half of the joy, in a new album is having a whole lot of songs to become accustomed to; ones I didn't previously know.

It has to be a good thing that we are now exposed to so much music, but at what cost? Our musical experience has changed from a means to bring people together to share and exchange individual appreciations, to more of a personal thing which separates us from all around us. I start to wonder if this hunger to fill our ears is creating a monster.

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