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ATPM 11.05
May 2005



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Pod People

by Tom Bridge,

Creative Understanding Achieved Via iPod

It surprised precisely no one that I was an early adopter. I come from a long line of early adopters, from mainframe VAX computers, to the original Macintosh, to my adoption of Eurydice, my first-generation iPod 5 GB in November of 2001. I am the original pod person. My boss at the time thought I was crazy. He liked the idea, but couldn’t stand the price point. At $500, it was a big investment, well above my usual gadget point, but as musically obsessed as I am, it was an easy sell.

I outgrew my original iPod just in time to pick up a 40 GB 3rd-generation iPod, now teeming with purchased tunes and ripped CDs, as well as data backed up from my laptop. To me, the iPod has become both backup device and road trip companion, but my new iPod shuffle has become my training device. When I am not fixing computers or writing about them, I am a musician. I sing in Choralis, an 80-member community choir, and Echos, a 24-voice select chamber ensemble, and we perform about six times a year with music ranging from classical to modern. My iPod shuffle has become my constant practice companion. It will fit the entirety of any work we’re preparing, and this year it has helped me immensely in preparing to sing Bach’s Mass in B Minor. In fact, it will hold not just one, but three separate recordings of the Mass depending on what I need in terms of practice: precision, artistry, or tempo.

My Shuffle has become my gateway to a whole new level of practice. It’s safe to say that I have nearly no keyboard skills. You can sit me at a piano and I can tell you which one is a middle C, or what keys a D-flat major chord needs, but if you ask me to play anything, I may run from the building screaming. This makes practicing a real bear for me, but turning to a recording or two, I can get a good feel for passages, and utilities like Garage Band make it fairly easy for me to handle playback of difficult melismas and inverted fioratura and move them to my iPod shuffle for later practice.

There’s no question I’m a pod person, but I’m not one of those ubiquitous figures on the streets of DC, their white earbuds and cord showing off their iPod, nestled in their coat pocket. I’ve long since replaced my earbuds with a pair of Bose QuietComfort headphones, given as a gift by my girlfriend Tiffany. Good headphones add so much to the experience, you can hear the nuance of the cellos, or the buzz of the reeds of the bassoon, which you frequently miss with the small white buds. I realize that for many, half the appeal of the iPod is showing off the device that set you back a few Benjamins, and the headphones seem to do the trick nicely, but I could care less about looks when it comes to a piece of audio equipment. My giant studio cans certainly weigh more than the Shuffle does, but given that the Shuffle weighs just over an ounce, pretty much anything would fit that bill.

We performed the B Minor two weekends ago, and the performance was amazing. Moving from piano, to iPod-orchestra, to real orchestra, was the thrill of a lifetime. It was no surprise to change from piano to strings and horns, flutes and oboes, taking away that awkward transition from rehearsal to performance. I love my iPods. They transition me from one place to another: from home to work, from place to place, and now, from rehearsal to concert.

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