Monday, February 23, 2015

Musical Monday - The Middle by The Doubleclicks

Other than being by the Doubleclicks, this week's Musical Monday isn't particularly nerdy, as it is a cover of a popular song from the early 1990s. But the video, featuring clips of Angela and Aubrey from their childhoods, crystallized a thought that had been running around mostly unformed inside my head since last week's video for Starman by David Bowie: How so very little of most of our lives is recorded in any way other than memories locked in our heads.

For people like David Bowie, who became famous in the late 1960s, there is a record of their life available not only for them, but for pretty much the entire world. So long as you have a computer and an internet connection, you can see Bowie performances from 1969 through to the present day. There is a set of videos showing Bowie as a young man, as Ziggy Stardust, as the Man Who Fell to Earth, as the Thin White Duke, and whatever one calls the role he adopted in the 1980s, and so on. The point is that while we now have distinguished-elder-statesman-of-pop-music Bowie, we can also look back and see Bowie as a young, radical influence, upsetting the music world, and then remaking himself again and again.

Until relatively recently this sort of life record was mostly the province of the famous and the well to do. Sure, there were people who made home movies, but for large numbers of people owning private recording equipment was simply beyond their means. As far as I know, there are no video recordings of my youth. Or my brother's. There might be some of my sister, because she's a fair amount younger than I am, but I don't know one way or the other. The redhead has no videos of her childhood either.

But both of the Doubleclicks are substantially younger than either me or the redhead. And that age difference spans a substantial change in technology. So they have videos of their childhood. Even though they are now adults, they can look back and see their younger selves playing. There are sequences in the video in which it appears that their parents and grandparents appear. They have the benefit of being able to reach into the past and pull images of their loved ones when they were themselves young. In contrast, I can try to think of, for example, my father from when I was in elementary school, but since I know my father now, what I remember is a kind of amalgamation of what I think he was like then combined with what he is like now.

Memories are faulty. This has been shown time and again. Both of my grandfathers have been dead for many years - one of them for decades. I can remember what they looked like, because we have photographs of them. And I can remember what I think they sounded like, what they moved like, their mannerisms, and so on. But I can't be sure that the memory in my head of what they sounded like is actually what they sounded like. In fact, I am reasonably certain that my memory is wrong. The years that have passed since I last heard their voices have made those memories fuzzy. I have heard thousands of people since them, and probably conflated my memory of their voices with other voices. Time mangles, and eventually erases our recollections.

To a certain extent, this may be for the best. My memories of my grandparents are essentially all good ones, anything that was problematic or even mundane has long since been edited out of my recollection. But now video recording technology is almost ubiquitous. Most people have the ability to record the every day events of their lives using nothing more than their telephones. The only reason to lose memories now is neglect. The Doubleclicks are one of the first generations in which the lives of ordinary people will be routinely recorded. For better or for worse, all of the human foibles of our lives will be preserved, unchanged, and undiminished. This is good, but it is also sad, in that the sharp edges of our memories won't be mellowed by time. I sometimes wonder if we are ready for a world in which all of the images of our past are fixed in this way.

But I still wish I had a recording of my grandfathers' voices.

Previous Musical Monday: Starman by David Bowie

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