The case for new equipment

In Jonathan Franzen’s great novel The Corrections, the character Chip Lambert — disgraced, down on his luck,  and flailing in New York City — wonders to himself whether the intended function of serotonin reuptake inhibitors may not be to manage modern depression, as the indication claims, but rather to knock down sex drive on a massive scale and replace it with monetizable, material desires and gratifications, one of late-stage capitalism’s many bait-and-switch substitutions by which the simpler things and the free things are replaced with more Amazon boxes.

From the files of my own life: How easily does the hormone-enriched lusting after new music equipment encroach on time that could be spent on the gruelingly inefficient job of making new music?

When I was copy editing my brother-in-law’s second book on information technology and content management, I learned that one of the core principles of sound I.T. is to fit your systems to the way you work, not the way you work to your systems.


Social critics like David Graeber have documented how technology, when allowed to drive, has a habit of turning everyone into bureaucrats, occupying formerly productive hours with the drudgery of satisfying the needs of the data- and documentation-hungry system.

The myth of progress teaches us implicitly that technological advancement is for the better, is benevolent, and is advancing us inexorably toward something like enlightenment or immortality.

That’s what the machine wants us to think, anyway. And yet still, sometimes we take a leap and it works. We buy a new toy that serves no immediate need and it jogs us out of a rut. We commit to a new system before we even really understand it, and it transforms the way we work and think.

When you are trying to lose weight and need new trousers, do you buy them for the old you, the future you, or this liminal, aspiring you of the present who is liable to tip one way or the other? Sometimes you take a leap and invest in that vision of your future self, knowing full well it could come back to embarrass you.

And that, my friends, is how someone talks himself into buying a Behringer Rhythm Designer RD-8.

Read more installments of Village Voices by John Burdick.