... In truth, I think Britten was mostly right. Among other unfortunate things, the ubiquity of recorded music has largely killed off the amateur back-porch music-making that was one of the joys of my youth. But that was well on the way to happening long before the invention of the laptop computer and its offshoots. And if we are more passive listeners today, then we also have access to an infinitely wider and more varied range of listening possibilities than we did when I was young. [emphasis added]
In any case, it doesn’t really matter whether he was right: the deed is done, and only a self-consciously curmudgeonly fool would bemoan the results. To borrow a line from V.S. Naipaul, the world is what it is. Far better, then, to seize what it offers and make the most of it—and that, for me, includes the iPod. Two days ago I downloaded a recording of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet that was made by Shostakovich and the Beethoven Quartet in Moscow in 1940, one month after they gave the premiere of that masterpiece. Do I regret being able to do so? Not in the slightest—any more than I regret being able to go to YouTube and watch videos of Britten performing his own music.