The iPod has been accused of killing music, and celebrated as one of the greatest modern inventions, two music fans battle it out in UK national paper, The Times.

According to John Bungey: "Serious music lovers should shun Apple’s latest marvel."

While he credits Apple with being "good at turning wire and microchips into covetable lifestyle choices", he criticises the iPod because it can only be used "for half-listening to music."

"It’s for providing an aural backdrop to everyday life: the accompaniment to the pre-breakfast jog, the 8.15 from Slough, the family ironing. It’s music as an ambient enhancer, a drip-feed of minor stimulant that never obstructs the higher mental functions. Like a Starbucks decaff latte," he explains.

"The iPod is music made easy", he complains, "it is about the sound of familiarity, creating your personal Smooth FM."

Music overload

His argument is that devices like the iPod have made us forget how to appreciate music. "Your brain tunes in, it tunes out. Just as attention-deficit TV viewers, bamboozled by 50 channels, have forgotten how to watch, iPod wearers have forgotten how to listen."

"What if Mozart had been writing for the iPod age? He’d have stuck to Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and easily assimilated variants, perhaps meandering on for 50 minutes if he could have laid hands on a beatbox. No chance of anything as fiddly as The Magic Flute – you’d completely lose the plot as your bus passes roadworks," he rants.

His main criticism? Real fans of music shouldn't skip certain tracks in an album in the way the iPod allows. "It’s about filling up the hard disk with what you know and what you like, cherry-picking all the way. Almost all the great pop albums have been conceived as a whole. The iPod playlist is music robbed of context, music as a series of climactic peaks without the surrounding foothills and valleys that create the complete musical landscape."

Surprise surprise

But it is exactly this that appeals to Keith Blackmore, who offers his support to the Apple player.

"I made a list of about 30 new songs I have liked over the past six months and my wonderful little gadget is going to play them, as I asked it to do, in random order," he explains.

And, rather than the order of songs on an album being dictated by a band, Blackmore enjoys the element of surprise. "If I could be bothered to unsheathe my iPod and have a look at the menu screen, I could tell you what the next track will be but I won’t. I prefer to be surprised. It will be something I like, though."

The iPod is a revolution in his music listening habits. Blackmore explains: "The last time I listened so much, so eagerly to music was probably back when Aja seemed the most sophisticated record ever made and my turntable, amplifier and speakers were the envy of my mates."

"The iPod is one of the great modern inventions and no one who loves music and can switch on their home PC should be without one," he concludes.