In spite of appearances, the title of this post is not a misspelling, though it is an anachronism. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Vancouver hosted the Juno Awards last weekend. For the edification of the 99.5% of the world’s population that doesn’t live in Canada, the Juno Awards are this country’s annual musical awards event. In celebration, the city cordoned off the only two blocks of Granville Street not currently under-construction, and hosted a four-day jam-fest featuring performances by dozens of dreadfully dull bands from across Canada. Now don’t get all riled up — I’m not singling out the bands that played the Juno festivities, nor am I dismissing the whole Canadian music scene. No, when I dismiss something, I go all the way. And it’s my belief that nearly all modern commercial music, worldwide, borders on the insipid and banal. Competent? Yes. Compelling? No.

Youngsters are likely to suspect that the distinguishing grey strands sprinkled throughout my hair are the ‘root’ cause of my dismissal, but I have a strong argument to the contrary: I’m not dismissing modern music for being different than the music of my youth — I’m dismissing it for being the same. The bands I saw this weekend have progressed not one inch from the foundations that were built by pioneering rock acts like The Who, The Rolling Stones, and The Yardbirds. They use the same instruments, strike the same affected poses, play the same chords, and sing about the same subjects. What’s with that? What happened to rebellion? What happened to finding your own identity? What happened to culture? The only currently popular music genre that wasn’t popular when I was in High School is Hip Hop — but even that music has its roots in the 1970′s, and continues to play by rules that were firmly established in the early 1980′s.

Dismayed by the fact that another generation of musicians was failing to make an imprint on culture, and annoyed that I was neither hearing nor seeing anything new, I lost interest in photographing the bands. Instead, I turned my attention and camera to the audience. And that’s when I saw it — the cultural difference between this generation and those that preceded it — the video monitor.

All around me, people were holding up cell phones, video recorders, and all manner of minuscule point-and-shoot cameras — gazing intently into their little LCDs. Nearly everyone watching a performance was experiencing it on a personal video monitor. If people weren’t watching a video monitor, they weren’t watching the band — almost as if, without benefit of a personal viewing device, the event wasn’t even happening.

The photo below shows that, not only is the girl watching the band perform on her camera’s video screen but, zoomed-in, we see that she’s even watching another girl watch the band on another video screen.

After a decade-long diet of reality television, is this what the world has come to? Is reality no longer “real” unless it’s seen on a television screen or computer monitor? Has the “real world” become the “reel world?” Are we seeing a new generation for whom the world’s events don’t actually exist unless they’re on film? Or, more precisely, unless they’re digitized and compressed bits of data recorded to a flash memory device and seen on an LCD video display?

What a curious way to experience life. But what a delight for me, as it has given significance to that sprinkling of grey in my hair. I finally have a reason to shake my fist and say something profound like, “in my day, we actually watched things happen live, rather than on a video monitor… and it was better that way.”

©2009 grEGORy simpson
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