Living In Music

How much has music changed in my 45 years of living (46 years of living in late January when I have my 45th birthday)? The changes in the entertainment industry are incredible and almost with equal power to medical changes.

I had read once that the medical community's advancements were the spearheading forces that drove all other areas of improvement: the entertainment community got their improvement from medical miracles. Now those miracles in other areas are almost completely driven by the entertainment industry.

So let's take a little trip from 26 January 1968 to today (9 January 2013 - you would not think much'd change between now and 26 January of this year but the CES Convention in Las Vegas which is either the successor to ComDex, a positively enormous computer technology convention that used to run in November (well, it did when the five of us l=went there in 1993 for fun. ComDex has disappeared but Luis and weren't sure if CES was its new incarnation or if it truly did disappear form the face of the earth and this is what come along to replace it.

And why did I mention this huge convention? Well, to put it plainly, by the time 26 January this year rolled around, there will undoubtedly have released many of the showcased technology, such as a pair of... well, one couldn't call 'em "headphones" or "earbuds"... this device sits on ones face bones and the vibrations travel from the either the zygomatic or temporal bones to the ears. Amazing... if it works. Part of me is admittedly pragmatic and while sounds for deaf people are predicated on feeling the heavier parts of it (the way Beethoven sawed off the legs of his piano and banged on the keys, ear to the ground, then transferring this to written notes and then directing the gorgeous music of the Seventh Symphony to the orchestra disparately trying to keep up), but I digress. If it does work, however, I'll want a pair!

So. 1968. What a year, hey? This has to be mentioned and those who know will know why: on 27 January 1967, astronauts Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White died during the Apollo 1's "plugs out test" from smoke asphyxia, an admittedly quick and (from what I hear) painless way to go, but when NASA brags that it still has never lost a man "in space" I feel shame for those who died in the atmosphere or in the capsule or on the landing pad... this is too close a distinction.

Well, getting back my date and music, there was still some reel-to-reel music and many will say reel-to-reel was a great media to use for the clarity of sound. But clearly one's music crazy teenagers were forced to listen to vinyl records. Records, as they were called in shorthand, where made out of vinyl (not the same kind of vinyl that side your parents' houses) and if you were really good about the care and feeding of your records and the diamond-needle player, those flexible black shiny frisbee looking things would become worth a fortune. If I had treated those same in my possession, I'd make a boatload in the many U2 pressings from bootlegged concerts! Ah, well, I never was one for live music anyway.

When I was a kid I went to New York to hang out with Renée, my younger cousin (she's only two and half years younger than I, so the relationship was a good one, both of us having similar interests and taste in musically (mostly - some things like Rick uh... uh... oh, no! I've actually forgotten his last name!  It was an over-long name, similar to Springsteen, but not the same. Oh, what was it?! Um... oh! Yes - it was Springfield! Now, how could I forget that? I loved Springfield where my last position was located).

Anyway, hanging out with Renée was always great fun and we would do what all teenagers did - head straight to the bedroom and start playing music loud enough that Renée's brother (my other cousin) Henry couldn't hear us (which he couldn't - he was in the basement for the most part) and loud enough to make my aunt and uncle completely crazy. Both were very strong in the musical world, but all or nearly all they listened to was Classical music. I love Classical music now and I liked it before, but during the teen years, Cello in G minus was not what I was interested in.

What stuck out to me in Renée's room was the eight-track cassettes and the player, which looked huge, but I don't know if that is just my child's memory of things. The cassettes, on the other hand were huge and most disturbing, the cassette would stop in the middle (!) of a song, which meant there was not possibility of recording from this, this... thing. Forget that I never asked my parents for one of those nor did I ever want one. Terrible technology!

When we moved from Wallington to Wayne, in New Jersey, it was a betrayal of my life and happiness. I hated Wayne and it's school and a goodly number of the kids there. I started the eighth grade in George Washington Middle School (may its administrators rot in hell with no chance of parole). But the rotten denizens of that place were long out of mind on the weekends and I was happy to remain in my room, listening to my favourite songs, recording with cassettes (regular cassettes, not the dread 8-track). I had my Sony Walkman and lived in my head, just me and my closest friends: U2, Adam and the Ants, Depeche Mode, Marillion, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, the list goes on and on (yes, even in 1980, music figured so largely in my life.

I found it odd that I never dreamed of being a musician. But I never did. I hated the recorders we had in the fifth grade; I was not in any after school activities, so I showed no interrest in band. (How ironic that now I love band music, Drum Corps, especially.) I had a very close friend whose parents were fairly wrapped around her little finger and who also had made some money as a model (the way she decribed it, modelling was not the glamourous high life that we all thought it was, I suspect she was very honest about this and although she did look glamourous the first time I met her, once we became friends, she became "normal looking". The only time I felt conscious about our difference in appearance was when we went anwhere together or during her tutoring sessions with Andy, a guy in my class. It was an interesting dichotomy: I pined for Andy, who pined for Andreann, who had a much older boyfriend, Rick, and so pined for no one. The angst of high school is too weird, isn't it? And we all have to take the ride and find ourselves and the path we wish to take in it.

The only good thing - truly good, long-term thing - about high school was the exposure to so many different musical tastes. I had gotten into punk, alternative, rock and some mixtures of each. These styles were broadened, but I also heard big bbd, jazz, show tunes, soundtrack music, classical... oh, so many things! Four years of hell and I found one area of complete and utter joy.

The onset of the home video recording device which only a person with ten minimum Ph.D could actually program one of these horrendous things and there was a lot of infighting over which format was better - the original Betamax or the dual videos of VHS - and everyone had something to say at some point. Betamax were too expensive, so my parents got theirs as a VHS and of course who do you think had total control and complete understanding over this little gem? That's right - me! I was downstairs in the telly room watching endless amounts of MTV (from 1981, when it first aired with "Video Star" through about the eleventh grade. In the twelfth grade MTV had become loaded down with far too many adverts and too little punk and alternative and had a tendency to play Top 100 songs over and over and over, so I guess you could say it had gone mainstream and we parted due to musical differences.

When I was 17, I began dating Joe and he loved music too - the really heavy stuff - his favourite was Ozzy Ozbourne and Black Sabbath. They were a little heavy for me, and my taste was a little strange. But I happen to like all those artists now - Black Sabbath, Ozzy Ozbourne, Iron Maiden, Queensrÿche, etc. I've seen Queensrÿche and Rammstein with Greg last year (or maybe its been two years now) and loved them. Joe also bought me a stereo that played CDs and the curre3nt U2 release, War. I loved it - this was truly MUSIC! Clean, rich, incredibly powerful. But my parents made him take it back, thinking it was too much. I'd go to his parents' house to listen to it. At some point I finally got a Sony Discman from my parents. And slowly but surely I began to buy CDs, even though back then, they were so unbelievably expensive.

When Luis and I moved to Parsippany from Fairfield in 1994, into our first house that we bought, music and it's media was changing at an incredible rate. Around 1998 he bought me my first music device that hooked up to a computer to transfer over music. It was tiny in every way - it hold about twenty to 25 songs and it fit about my arm, tucked into an armband. It took an AA battery. I can't recall what it was called but I still have it, even though I am sure it doesn't work and wouldn't in todays technology.

We moved to the other side of Parsippany in 2002. By now the device industry had gone through so many iterations of the music devices, it was becoming difficult to keep up with all the changes in the technology. It was amazing.

The next device I received was the RIO Carbon for my birthday in 2005. It had 5GB, so I went from the paltry 25 songs or so to around
RioCarbon5GB.jpg600 or so. What a change! And what a player! It was silver and a burnished silver colour and the quality of music was unreal. I loved the RIO Carbon and took it everywhere I went, much as I have done with all my devices starting with my WalkMan. But this was the pies de resistance (I realise that this is likely not spelled correctly. My mostly flawless spelling only applies to my native language, English - as in English-English). Unfortunately it gave up the ghost sometime in August or September of that year. I think Luis did not invest in another one for me because the company now owned by a Japanese firm, announced that they would cease making MP3 players and go to the SigmaTel chip industry. He never said that, but I asked all the time about getting another RIO and he's put me off in some fashion to keep me at bay.

It is hard to recall if there was a different device in the interim, but after my RIO Carbon died, I went back to the little 25 song device. By now I knew how to download my music and need not wait for Luis to do it. So until Christmas 2006, I lived with CDs, tapes and my little 25 song USB toy.

Christmas of 2006 marks the slow but steady conversion to a an Apple household. I received my first iPod Nano, 8GB, in red (Luis always buys me the colour that fights great cancer, which is really nice and very conscientious of him). It was a lovely device. Christmas of 2010 I asked for an iPod Classic with the full memory and functionality, and I got it. This is 160GB of room, which is delightful - it holds boatloads of music.

One should always love the gifts they receive and so one should always love what they give. Luis and I.... discuss this all the time because his father couldn't care less what he gives us - which makes gift-giving quite a weakness in his case. Instead of caring what we want, he prefers to impugn our worldview and likes and dislikes that are key and pushes upon us gifts that neither wants, which means I either toss the offending item or regift it (normally a policy I hold in low degree; however, if I know someone who would truly find something I received appealing, then I am making myself and that individual happy.

My birthday is just over two weeks away... dum, DA DA dum... it will be interesting to see what horrors Luis' will visit upon me this year.


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