Think of listening to an MP3 file on an iPod device with cheap ear buds -- compared to listening to an uncompressed file (even on an iPod) with good headphones, let alone listening to a good stereo system -- as looking at a black and white photograph of a color painting.
As a music lover, I treasure the ability to approximate the sound of live music, of all types, in my home. I therefore attend audio shows to see and hear the latest equipment and talk to fellow audiophiles. But I am always sad to see virtually no one there under the age of 50. The young people who are there are those who design and sell stereo equipment, not prospective buyers.
A similar movement toward mediocrity is taking place in photography. Even though even inexpensive cameras are getting better and better, camera stores are reporting a decrease in camera sales -- for the same reason that people prefer inferior music reproduction: Convenience trumps excellence.
Smartphones certainly take better pictures than they used to, but their virtue lies entirely in convenience. And this is not to be dismissed. When my son sends me a video of my grandson, I am thrilled to watch it no matter what the quality.
But unless one is shooting a still subject in daylight -- and most pictures of people are taken indoors in low lighting -- a camera phone usually takes mementos, not beautiful photographs.
The prices paid for convenience, in both music and photography, are excellence and beauty.
No one is at fault here. There are no bad guys. But people need to be aware of what is happening. Young people are paying a price. Phone cameras are to photography, and MP3s and cheap earbuds are to music, what texting is to writing.
They are living a convenient life. But not a deep one. And they don't even know it.
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