A Little Aural Perspective on Modernity: A Game for Your Playlist

We’re so inured to our modern lives, I sometimes find it hard to really appreciate how radically different the world I live in is from that a century ago, not just in terms of technology. Everything has changed, even the way we perceive the world and the act of living. Hell, I didn’t live a century ago, so how can I possibly imagine what it was like to live then? I need something constant from a century ago, something that I can experience both the past and present.

So I play a little game. Open up Wikipedia, pick two years exactly a century apart (e.g. 1901 and 2001), then select a piece of classical music from the earlier year (as this was the dominant musical genre of the time) and a few hit singles from the later. As I listen to the classical music, I try to imagine myself in the concert hall, in that year. After, there’s a brief intermission, then the modern-day singles start. And it is in that disruptive leap between styles and technology and cultural values–that feeling of being a fish-out-of-Earth–that I rediscover the reality of how radically different my life is.

I’ve made a short little playlist to give a try. Pretty delightfully juxtaposed. Enjoy!

[Note: This is only as good as comparing Late Romantics to modern popular music, i.e. 1850-1910 compared to 1950-2010.]

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