austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

You may think the chords are going wrong

Here's another stray thought from my trip back east. The extra day I spent with my sister-in-law and family also included the chance to see my mother again, since she'd had a play-date with her granddaughter planned. She got up there before I got up at all. (At a reasonable enough hour, my niece came up to me and said ``Wakey-wakey, it's time to get up'', so I told her all right, she should go to bed so she can get up. She was having nothing to do with my sound reasoning.) My mother, by the way, drives my sister-in-law crazy by trying to turn reading books to the niece into participatory things; my sister-in-law feels that play dates don't have to be educational. There's merit in both sides and I'm glad I don't have to hold an opinion on it.

But part of the day was spent reading The Monster At The End Of This Book, Grover's masterpiece. Well, sort of reading it. My niece not only has the book (which I don't remember ever having, though it was published in 1971; my mother speculates that my reading proficiency, which was always high, blew past the book before I could remember reading it for myself), but also a DVD version, and they watched the horribly CGI-animated Grover reading over the book's text.

I don't mind having books read by automated machine per se; I'm too fond of audio books to object (and I know they're not everybody's thing, and that's fine). But I realized she's growing up dominated by one particular reading of the book's text: the cadences, the pauses, the melody of the words is fixed to what the DVD's reader thought was right.

In the old days, before my grandfather's time, every performance of a song was an original event, as someone played from the sheet music. It might be repeated but never duplicated precisely. Each performance of a song was as unique as a sneeze. That was reduced with recorded music, but covers of songs meant that one still wouldn't be locked into a single way of hearing a single song. It seems to me that the number of covers of songs is reducing, as though we get fixed on a single way of hearing a tune and can't take even mild variations on it (else why auto-tune performers and make sure they can't possibly improvise around the melody)?

Is it happening to books as well? The night before, I was allowed to sit in on my sister-in-law reading bedtime stories to my niece, several stories she'd heard many, many times over. My adding in a few gasps and whews at suspense and its relief were welcomed by my sister-in-law and not so much by my niece, who told me to be quiet and listen. Maybe I was over-reacting, but, isn't part of the fun of life getting the same thing you had last night but presented differently?

Trivia: Rhode Island's charter of July 1663 remained in force as the colony's and then state's constitution through 1843. It did note that the freemen of the province had the right to elect their rulers and make their own laws. Source: Rhode Island: A History, William G McLoughlin.

Currently Reading: Inventing Temperature: Measurement and Scientific Progress, Hasok Chang. I'm delighted to learn that the stuff which worried me as a kid --- like, how do you know how mercury expands and contracts with temperature before you have a working thermometer --- bedeviled researchers for centuries. Also, who knew Josiah Wedgewood worked out a method for measuring extreme heats based on how clay samples contracted? Neat.


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