Slow Food makes its way to the table

The objective of Fast Food, it seems, is to maximize short-term profits.  The eater profited by “wasting” as little time as possible eating, and the producer profited by sourcing the cheapest possible ingredients from the global economy, assembling those ingredients as rapidly and mechanically as possible, without regards to any externalities (such as the health of the eater, the quality of the food, the fairness to the farmer, and especially without regard to the environmental costs of the endeavor).  By contrast, the the objective of Slow Food is to create food that is good (pleasurable to eat), clean (healthy and regenerative to the environment), and fair (to farmers, chefs, and all who bring the food to the table).  Good, clean, and fair create a new triple bottom line for measuring the quality of food, and as the New York Times now reports, locally grown food is becoming de rigeur among the trend-setters.

“What I’m seeing with my clients is not the trendiness or the politics,” [chef] Mr. Welch said. “They are looking only at taste.”

Mrs. Howard said she ate local vegetables growing up in northern Michigan and Chicago. But her husband, a private equity fund manager, ate a lot of expensive imported food with little thought about where it came from. But all that has changed.

“It’s like the first time you start drinking good red wine and you realize what you were drinking was so bad you can’t go back to it,” Mrs. Howard said. “It’s that same way with vegetables.”

If a hedge fund manager can get this excited about vegetables, what might the future hold for music that is good (pleasurable to listen to), clean (faithfully recorded and produced), and fair (to the musicians, engineers, and all who bring the music to the listener)?

Just as Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini realized that to restore the taste of his favorite tomatoes he needed to work with farmers who were willing to let the tomato be a tomato, not a commodity.  Farms needed to be fields, not factories.  The restoration of nature in every aspect of the tomato led to the restoration of the tomato and its taste.  What can this teach us about music?

The implication is simple: we must restore music as nature to every aspect of our environment.  When recording the piano, we must consider the piano, the pianist, and the air the piano moves in the room.  Without all these elements, how can the recording sustain?  Said a different way, we must think of music as magic which we must be careful to maintain, never as bulk to which magic can be added.  And if we are conjuring magic from the very beginning, not in some proprietary afterprocess, then should there not be witnesses to the magic?  After all, we not only have nothing to hide, but we have everything to show and be proud of!

I am more convinced than ever that the deterioration of the music industry is more of an indictment of a particular model of production rather than the fundamental weakness of Music herself.  And I am convinced that by recentering our attention on Music herself, and less on the conveniences to industry or profits, that both music and the musicians will benefit, not to mention those who wish to listen and experience everything that music has to offer.

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