Having to clarify twice recently internet entries that were mistaken for my own, has brought me to ponder on the progress of original thought.
The premium for original thought seems to be up – most of us today would rather be guilty of stealing office supplies or purchasing pirated material, rather than be guilty of plagiarism, or worse still, being mentally bland – simply, uninteresting.
Could this be because the market supply is getting low in the area of original thought? In marketed products and inventions, what’s there is there – computers and the Internet, TVs and other media players, digital cameras, and mobile telephones. The advancement in products today seems centered on development rather than innovation, getting things smaller and sleeker while containing more information. Combos are popular. There are no doubt original products, like the ones that we saw on TV shopping shows such as the broiler that you cooked while you drive, but they aren’t taking up the market by storm – perhaps it’s not the supply but the demand in question.
The original products which make it deserve a little attention: in this department, I’d personally nominate the instant messaging systems like MSN and Yahoo messengers. Not because communication has become any more immediate, but it has allowed one person to sustain multiple conversations simultaneously, simply not practical in verbal communication, difficult in email, and where the time lapses in needing to type becomes a asset instead of a liability.
I can’t claim to have read enough, in certainly not in enough languages to judge, but last year’s Whitbread and Booker prize winners (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and Vernon God Little) have certainly been original in the choice of voice even though the general concept of murder-mystery is not. But the real market winners are Dan Brown and JK Rowling, and as entertaining as they have been, their success is due to style talents rather than any real originality. My nominee in more recent history is Isaac Asimov, who really had original plots as well – e.g., the concept of people in the future not being able to do simple arithmetic, the minds of the times claiming that it goes against common sense, since you need a calculator to calculate.
In music the era of the contemporary has been stretched quite a bit, and chronologically anyway it’s about time to move on? The question is, of course, to what. After all, the Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras took about a century-plus. Of course, I’m being rather classical-musically-centric in ignoring pop, rock and rap, but then seriously, wouldn’t any chord construction analysis, or that of linguistic meter, show the bulk of the products of these genres in rather unimaginative light? One of the real nominees in history is Schumann, who was conflicted enough to be interesting; Rossini too, not because of The Lone Ranger, but because the same guy managed to write up an amazingly different Stabat Mater.
Perhaps I’m being more critical than necessary, my apologies – but here’s a toast, to the broiler which cooks while you drive, to instant messaging, to Isaac Asimov, and to The Real Lone Ranger.