Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Beat Must Go On

The other night I was helping put Marissa to bed. She often likes to play her little music CDs from her music class to go to sleep to. She was turning on her CD player, opening up the CD drawer to put her CD in when she accidentally hit the button that opens up the tape player.

She looked at the front of the radio that had become unhinged, looked into the area where a cassette tape would go, turns to me and says, "What's that?"

I tried to explain to her what tapes were, but she couldn't grasp the concept. Sigh.

Here's the march of music technology that I've known in my lifetime:

LPs (albums, vinyl, whatever name you call it you know what I mean)
8 track tapes
cassette tapes
CDs (which stands for Compact Disc if you didn't remember that)
iTunes/MP3 digital format

I remember all of these -- yes, I do remember 8 tracks, but from the standpoint of my parents playing them, not me. My kids will know CDs (maybe, vaguely), and the digital format of music, i.e. music you can't touch or feel, just hear.

No gazing at the incredible art that used to grace the cover of those huge albums, art that had someone's  blood sweat and tears into it, because they knew that good art helped sell music. Now you just need to put the artist's face on the album, big enough so that when you see a thumbnail of the cover on iTunes you'll recognize who the artist is.

No little booklets of lyrics to paw through as you listened carefully to each song...in order, getting the full sense of the album concept that the musician was trying to convey. Now, if there's a digital booklet available you can read through the 7 pt font lyrics online when you first download the music, but after that you'll probably forget that the digital booklet is in your media player and you'll just have to guess at the words. And if you're like me, the new music you just bought goes straight into your "shuffle" format -- you probably don't even know what order the songs are in, or if the musician had a story s/he wanted to tell you through the song sequence. Or even better, just download the two or three songs from the album that you heard on the radio and scrap the rest.

Remember "B" sides? What do you call them in iTunes, those unwanted tunes that rarely get downloaded but belong to the same collection as some Top 40 hit that's been downloaded 12 million times?

Do I sound curmudgeon-y yet? Because I feel it.


  1. Nah, not curmudgeon-y. Just going through what most parents do when they realize they are accumulating history and the newer generation has not experienced what you've experienced. I always marvel at how much my Dad saw. He could remember the first car he saw in 1911.

    Some part of us feels sad for the passage of time. However, that is the way it is and just think, some day 20+ year from now Marissa or Lindsey may have the same experience. I wonder what the music format will be then. It is hard to imagine, but I'd love to see it.

  2. Do you feel old yet? And is she asking you if that's how you did it "in the olden days?"

  3. I remember asking you, Mom, if you saw dinosaurs when you grew up. Sorry!

  4. Dad, I think a LOT about all of the changes Grandpa saw in his lifetime. I remember him telling stories of how the "rich" kids had zippers while everyone else still had buttons on their pants. He lived during an amazing time, and I think we do too. I agree, some day our kids will wonder what MP3 players are.