Something I occasionally wonder: Does the thrill of the chase still exist? At least in terms of information and media, I mean. Obviously humans are doomed to seek after the unrequited affections of others until aliens conquer the world and suppress the human reproductive instinct. I’m thinking more in terms of hunting for music, movies, film, that sort of thing.
I’m sitting on a crowded bus riding through San Francisco’s streets, and on my phone here I can pull up info about just about anything I could ever hope to know, some of which is actually based in real fact . If I want to listen to a tune by Italian progressive rock band PFM or krautrock legends Faust — bands, I would wager, no one else on this bus has ever even heard of — I go over to my YouTube app and find where someone has flipped the bird to intellectual property rights and uploaded that track. If I need to work my way through the AFA 100, I stumble over to Amazon.com and buy them all for low prices (or, if I’m feeling less noble, snag them from some torrent site). If I want to learn the history of the UK’s Canterbury rock scene from the ’70s, I can pull up a dry summary on Wikipedia or read impassioned recollections and treatises from dozens of fan sites.
Hooray for human progress and all that, but like I said: Do people still know the thrill of the chase? I feel a deep connection to the music I love, one that’s lasted more than two decades in some cases, in large part because of the effort I had to invest in finding that music in the first place. I couldn’t go online in 1993 (I learned about the WWW a year later) and get recommendations for fans of Yes and Genesis. I had to browse through bookstores and libraries to find snark-laden articles on those bands that painted them with the same dismissive strokes as King Crimson and ELP, which prompted me to hunt down those bands despite Rolling Stone’s assertion that they were probably worse than cancer.
I couldn’t order hard-to-find albums online; when something like Can’s Tago Mago showed up in the university record shop (which mostly did deal in records at that point in time), I had to pony up $40 on the spot or risk never seeing it again. And I only knew about Can because of a classmate who swore they were amazing but didn’t have much evidence to offer. It was a time of groping blind for information and references, of buying sight-unseen at exorbitant cost and hoping I didn’t just sink a ton of money on a dud (see: Pierre Moerlin-era Gong). When I finally found something like a Van Der Graff Generator album after literal years of searching, that acquisition had real meaning for me.
So I ask, not as old-man-shouting-at-cloud but in genuine curiosity: Does that experience still exist for people in this day and age? When any media you could ever hope to enjoy exists only a few clicks and a brief queue away, what chase is there to thrill in? What connections do people form to art now when even the most obscure work is a digital commodity rather than a precious rarity?
I don’t have any doubt that people feel a deep connection with the art they consume and enjoy. The Internet hasn’t destroyed our souls (it has given a voice to the soulless, which is not the same thing). I’m just curious to know the new methodology for these things. My tastes were cemented long before Napster and Amazon, so it’s all a mystery to me. Teach me of your youthy mysteries, o pupal humanoids.