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51. Short Attention Span Theater

10, 9, 8, 7.... The countdown is underway. Samsung recently conducted a study on the average length of the human attention span and found that since the last study, it has decreased 25% from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. Backing this up is a report from the Director of the Washington State University School of Music who says that music producers are now looking for a hook to be present in a song every 7 seconds in order to maintain the listener's attention. And finally we have a new record for the shortest song to ever make it into the Billboard Hot 100. The winner is a song called Beautiful Trip which lasts all of 37 seconds.


These points lead us to the fact that music is becoming the victim of cultivated longings for instant gratification. This trend can also be observed in movies where scene lengths are becoming shorter and shorter leading to rapid fire sequences designed to hold the viewer's attention.


This is a change with huge consequences on art and on those of us who are paying attention. It's normal for young children to have short attention spans but for adults it spells trouble and translates to the dumbing down of our living cultural heritage. Most things of a lasting and worthwhile value take time and hard work to create and appreciate. I am reminded of a recent ad I saw which claimed to teach people to read music and play the piano in 12 lessons. After teaching thousands of piano lessons, I'm here to say it ain't gonna happen!


As Scott Peck said in the first line of his groundbreaking book, The Road Less Travelled, "Life is difficult." So let's deal with it and not let ourselves be manipulated by those who stand to gain from our not being able to hold on to a thought for more than 7 seconds. Some people misleadingly call this progress, and then call those of us who won't accept it, stuck in the past. That's because awareness of a problem is the first step towards fixing it.


We should also remember that when people don't get the instant gratification they expect, they tend to get frustrated and angry. And God knows there's already more than enough of that to go around.

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