Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Experience Dulled

While watching a concert of 1960s singers and singing groups on PBS, I was struck by the fact that they just stood there. Not that this was new to me, because that is what most acts did back then, but the striking comparison to MTV’s wild actions was splendidly clear.

Jimi Hendrix was one of the filmed participants. Considered a leader of musical direction in his times, he just stood there. What path did the generation take that music moved from being the focus to being a part of an experience? Odd that Jimi Hendrix would be on screen as my thoughts on this developed, as his group was the Jimi Hendrix Experience. I delved deeper as I realized that back when Hendrix was gigantic, most people had never seen him. He played concerts, but the bulk of his followers listened on the radio or to records. An appearance on television in the 1960s was for one song, two at the most; sung on a stage with restricted motion. Lighting was appropriate for a television stage and television technology at the time. Yet, we listened to it, loved it, and bought it.

One of the issues that brings this out is that over the last bunch of years I had had one of my classes spend a week looking for music of alienation in their lives. Any kind of alienation; by any kind of singer people were listening to. Over that period the event of focus is that the number of people who have no idea what the words are has taken off. In the late 1990s it was one or two people per class. It now has approached the majority. While rock has always been subject to this, the majority of the words were clearly apparent. As an old rock and roller I recall putting my head right in the speaker to try and pick out a phrase so my band could use the song and sound right. But the bulk of the songs had no such problem. I remember being in discussions of the meaning of songs, such as “American Pie.” The words were crucial to the point of the song.

I think three things explain this change. [1] Rock music has shifted to a more mushy sound. The Beach Boys and Beatles were people who thought the words important. I am not sure that is true any more. With such a colophony of sound, is any part of it important versus the whole? [2] The music has been visualized. The music is not just music, a set of sounds; it is an “experience.” It is more than sound; it is sight with movement, and sound. Has the point been reached where the visual exceeds the impact of the sound? Is Brittany Spears about seeing Brittany shake, or the sounds? The answer seems obvious. [3] Attention spans may play some role. Listening to the words is a more deeply worked out experience than just passively experiencing the act. One is involved with words because the mind must work with them. IS it as involved when the act involves a mixture of senses?

In all, it is sad. The ability of music to bring messages of meaning is stifled in favor of a mind dulling sensory experience. Of course shutting out the world could be the message. The postmodern experience surely makes great headway in this area.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Missing Sandra Dee

The gang at the lake has been a little down over the passing of Sandra Dee. While made fun of in places like Grease, she is an icon of the early boomer age. Her life was not filled with the happiness that should have followed some of the characters in her movies through life. My favorite is A Summer Place. I watch it several times a year. In it she is filled with angst over the sexual issues that the boomer group would soon rebel against. She wants love with Troy Donahue, and nothing is more important. She and he pursue it while questioning what is right and proper. While it looks archaic today, it represents the real outlook of the young boomer crowd. The trend of society, the nature of the hippie movement, and all that are in every wondering thought she has in that film. Sandra Dee stood at the forefront of societal change. To Rizzo in Grease she was at the end of the line, but she actually stood near the front. Change came not from bold leapers who extended the limits of society, but from those who avoided the hype and pushed a little more. The media followed those who bounded forward. The Boomers followed those who inched forward and thought carefully about it all. Sandra Dee was certainly among those leaders of her times.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Alone in the Wilderness

The gang here at the lake just finished watching Dick Proenneke's 1968 travels to wilderness Alsaka in Alone in the Wilderness. What a wonderfully exciting experience. Traveling to a beautiful place, one isolated from people, and living alone for decades; what a challenge. He builds his cabin using materials found at the site. He makes handles for those tools he did bring in. He is visited by a friend who flys in supplies. But mainly he is alone in the midst of a giant stretch of nature.

Is this not a dream for many just crushed by the stress and push of postmodernity? Of course it is. Yet who gets to actually try? Dick Proenneke does. You get to view the first year of decades he is to spend alone. Of course the only once spoken danger is that health care is not available. No phone to calll and no one to actually call. He does note during one climb that if he fell he would be making peace with his maker, but otherwise injury is a silent element. Such a dream, yet healthcare makes it impossible for most of us who would like to get away. This is particularly true of those of us in those 50s and beyond. But then again, the lifestyle looks so healthy that would there be a need for non-accident health care? If we each shoveled a mile of path per day without a snowblower, would health care not be a part of our lives?

I have seen the show twice and have just been glued from start to finish. I was attracted by the fiftyish
travelogue look, but stayed for the inspiration.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Old Guys Win

While the gang at the lake spent most of Oscar time watching Love Story given its recent purchase in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart, the end of the evening in Hollywood was worth a peak. When Million Dollar Baby won for best picture, three old guys in bald or gray hair took the award. How refreshing. Clint Eastwood, in particular, looked a little hagard like us all; and here he was walking away with the big prioze. How uplifting is that! It makes you want to get up and get soimething done.