by Jeff Lewis
© March 1990
This story is set in the not to distant future.
I hate it when she asks me to go to a
music concert. I don't even own a TV.
There are few things more humiliating
than the things a person has to go through at
one of those things. Still, she sounds adamant
and it's a sure bet we'll be going. She tells me
that it's a "New Kids on the Block"
retrospective. I don't think I've even heard of
that group--then again, I suppose it really
My parents tell me that there was a
time when it was different. Parents are always
saying things like that. You know. "You used to
be able to live in the L.A. Basin", "I remember
when you had to wear special glasses to watch
three-d TV", that kind of stuff. The public
reference bookpads on history say the same
things as they do, so I guess it's true, but I can't
imagine a time when I would have wanted to
see a concert voluntarily.
"Are you ready yet?" she calls from the
living-room. One thing that hasn't changed,
women still think men take too long to get
ready for shows. "Just about," I call back. I can't
put it off much longer and pull on my coat. As I
walk out into the room, she stands up and the
room gets brighter. How can I say no to her?
She puts her arm around my waist and
tells me to relax and musses my hair. She can be
a real tease when she wants to be. She takes
her coat, tells the house to be on guard and we
leave. The car pulls up in front and we get in. I
rest back as the car starts on the course the
house has given it. She's too keyed up about the
show to sit still and wants to turn on the radio. I
beg her not to and she finally gives in on this
What bothers me is that the whole
thing is a waste of time. The purists argue that
it is the feelings you get, the emotions you feel
while listening to the music that you buy. True,
that's the part that lives on, but how do you
connect that feeling with anything. you have to
have more than just feelings.
I know some artist-types who agree
with the whole thing. They would, their
living depends on the laws, and they aren't
going to bite the hand that feeds them. They
argue that the purpose of art is to inspire
emotions in the viewer, not to communicate a
Perhaps they prefer abstractionism, but I get
more out of a legal public reference bookpad
than out of their "art".
Ever since the book and music industries
merged with the computer industry, things
went from awful to insane. I suppose if you
think about it, we should have seen it coming.
Publishers were always being driven crazy
with photocopiers. The old music industry
would only accept complete control over their
products and their strong-arm practices often
made Japanese terrorists look positively
It really started with something called
a "see-dee". It was the first time a computer
technology was applied to music is a widely
available form. It was supposed to provide the
perfect music, or at least that was held as true
until the flaw in Shannon's Law was discovered
and proved that sampled sound could never be a
perfect representation of the analog sound
because the sampling itself introduced
Mind you, they managed to use the
technology changeover to increase the price the
music recording to about twice what they were
before "see-dee's" in just a matter of five years
or so. That was one real constant in the
Then the Japanese invented the "Dat".
This was a tape recording system which also
used digital technology and provided the same
capability of "see-dee's". The music industry
went nuts. They wanted it all banned because it
was possible for anyone to make "perfect"
copies of any sound including commercial
Now, imagine if the American Artists
Union had proposed that no artist be allowed
to paint in any colour other than light blue so
that no work could be photocopied. Pretty
stupid idea, right? Well, not to the music
industry. They even went so far as to propose
that "see-dee's" be modified so that a small
section ofthe sound spectrum was removed. The
idea was that the "Dat" recorders would look
for thismissing chunk and refuse to record
anything with it missing.
Anyway, we pulled up to the
auditorium and got out, telling the car to park
itself. There was a huge crowd and secretly, I
hoped that she'd change her mind and skip the
show. Not likely, I admit. She was a sucker for
these old classics. Besides, it turned out that
she had tickets, so we were commiued.
At the ticket check, we had to sign the
usual waivers and agreements and finally
managed to get in and to our seats. I sat back in
the heavily cushioned chair to watch the
show, determined to at least enjoy it. The MC
came out to explain our legal obligations and
the procedure which follows the show. He also
reminded us that we had signed our agreements
and that if anyone was uncertain or had
changed their minds, that they should leave
now and they could get a half-refund at the
He paused for a minute or two as a
couple of people up front left the auditorium. A
group of wipegroupies in the front jeered them
as they made their way to the back and exited.
I honestly wished I could leave with them. A
moment later, the lights dimmed and fireworks
There was a moment of excitement
whena couple of bookpad bootleggers were
detected and arrested. That I remember clearly.
You'd think those clowns would know better.
The chairs were rigged to monitor for any
unauthorised electronic activity either
external or because of internal augmentation.
Recorders had to be check at the ticket office,
or if built-in, you had to be licensed.
The next thing I clearly remember is
stepping out of the wiper booth and meeting her
in the lobby. I remember the feeling of the
rhythm of the music, but I can't remember the
music. I know the lyrics were sort of sappy, but I
can't remember the lyrics. Forty-five minutes of
my life were half-gone and only a haze of
emotions were left.
You see, the music industry finally
realized that the copyright law stated that it
was illegal to translate any work into another
form, including the chemical coding of the
mind. They and their brothers in the
other entertainment industries -bookpads and
TV- realized that most people could watch a
performance or view a book once and for the
most part remember virtually all of it. So they
finally brought in the toughest copyright
They declared our memories illegal.