Ain’t That Peculiar


How, exactly, do you turn a romantic, soulful song into one that barely celebrates the beating of hearts, let alone the complexities of living?

And, more to the point, how do you thereby reinterpret the song for your age, giving it the empty heart of your own time?

And, worse, how do you suggest something of the reality of timeless emotions in a bounded and digital era?

Well, the first thing you’d do is splice the rhythm of the song, so that it functions like a set of punctuation marks. The next thing you’d do is introduce instruments that don’t exist. The final thing you’d do is give the vocals a portentous, pretentious tone, ensuring that you’re driving them with a kind of stuttering, halting deliberation.

You’d also have the most talented bassist of his generation doing his thang.

You’d end up with a piece of music that communicated the changing of times. It would mix human emotions with political realities and physical technology. It would show that music can morph itself. It would build the anxieties of a culture on the verge of profound, permanent change in which the individual becomes a piece of malleable information, to be created and discarded at the whim of whoever is controlling it, with the expressiveness and emotion that makes us human in any age. To seek digitalisation and to embrace its dividing arms is what has driven us, in reality, since around 1943 (Colossus), but certainly since 1971 (the Intel 4004) and accelerating from 1981 onward (the release of the IBM PC). It’s hard to say for sure, but it’s a fair bet that Steve Jobs’s attempt to take over every single element of our lives has its roots in that movement.

I think that sentence was meant to be ironic.

In any case, serious or not, it is not a party-political point. This is a point about the changing world circa 1980. Regardless of who was in power, we were destined to become 0s and 1s.

It was what we would have wanted…

You’d start with this:

And you’d do this to it:

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About Kevin Donnelly

I'm also known as Lawrence George, which is the name I write for Helium under. I think I ought to ditch my pseudonyms before I forget which one is me.
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