Found this article somehow from the Guardian in 2022, about people ditching their Spotify accounts in favor of discovering and playing music using other methods and technologies like — gasp — CD players. The people in the article echo sentiments I’ve felt myself about the ever-increasing digitization of all things, and especially streaming media. That because of something about how Spotify works (and I’ve tried almost every other major service, and they’re all basically the same technologically, imo), it makes you end up hating music, even music you supposedly “like.” They quote one person:

“Taking the extra step to load it on to my phone, or the extra step to flip over the tape, or put the CD on in the car, it feels like something that I’m doing, rather than something I’m receiving,” they continue. “And that sense of agency makes me a more dedicated and involved listener than the kind of passive listening-without-listening that streaming was making me do.”

There’s a lot to like and a lot that I agree with in this article, about agency, and cultivating the human relationships that lead to the discovery of new music. I’ve gotten there mostly via a huge wifi radio kick I’ve been on since the New Year, after trying out and sending back the newest Sonos. I almost never listen to Spotify now, and haven’t been this invested in my listening choices in eons, it seems like.

I have I guess been collecting stories like this one from the Guardian unofficially for a while now. Like that one that I think was in the NYT about how teens at some high school were forming clubs where they didn’t use cell phones or only used old flip phones or something… That and some other things in this vein have made me wonder, what is this movement historically speaking?

I’ve seen the label ‘Neo-Luddite’ thrown around a fair amount, but for most people the actual historical roots of the Luddite movement are a hazy blur if known at all. And I wonder if it doesn’t in fact go deeper than merely this critique of economic misuse of automation against the craft worker. I wonder if it doesn’t cut right down to the bone – the human soul.

I recently came across a term I hadn’t seen before, a proto-Protestant movement starting in the 14th century in England, Lollardy. I won’t go into what their actual substantial beliefs were too much here, except insofar as they touch on the wider Protestant notion of the priesthood of all believers. Quoting from the Lollardy wiki page linked above:

Believing in a universal priesthood, the Lollards challenged the Church’s authority to invest or to deny the divine authority to make a man a priest. Denying any special status to the priesthood, Lollards thought confession to a priest was unnecessary since according to them priests did not have the ability to forgive sins.

This might be something of a reach to try to equate use of streaming services with, I don’t know, access to the sacred via music. But if music isn’t sacred at some level, then probably nothing is. Putting even aside the question of the “sacred” and what the hell that even is supposed to mean (a question I don’t care all that much about), I think this goes back to the point above about agency. About the ability to decide, to think, to feel, to act for yourself. To not be a mere passive recipient. To get up, to change the channel. To turn the damn thing off. To yell at the TV. To protest.

I don’t know then if “digital protestantism” is really quite an apt label for that which I’m seeking a purer expression of, but welded onto perhaps certain elements of Neo-Luddite, maybe we are starting to get some of the rudiments in place for carving out a larger space to play in productively – if only in our imaginations, and perhaps there only still for a time, as the fingers of digital control try to reach ever inward. We need not let them though. We have the ability to protest and to resist, so long as we exercise it.