New Toys

When I was young, I used to spend my spare money on music. It started out with albums recorded on vinyl, then there was the expansion to cassette tapes to record albums borrowed from friends, and then, in my final move, by the time I graduated with my doctorate degree, I also graduated to digital audio on CDs. It was a long time ago. I still have a massive collection of albums in all of these formats. Music was perhaps my most significant monetary indulgence. Through my growing process, I went through three iterations of good amplifier systems and speakers – each acquired after some serious research into the technology.

But there also existed another side of my genetic makeup and upbringing that would tend to pull me back from this hobby. Money was not to be wasted. It has been many years since I upgraded anything in the home entertainment system to the extent I used to be tempted to do when I was younger. Technology has left me behind completely! Everything is dated. I have no capability for using the newer digital audio/video interfaces that are available on devices to their best advantage. I never bought into Blu-Ray or HD-DVD even though the kind of work that I used to do was foundational to the development of these technologies. We still have a DVD player in the house that is decades old, but that is it! HDTV did come to the house early only because I worked on the technology. Surround sound technologies have advanced significantly since my time.

And music is also delivered to me through newer means these days.

Having said all that, I have to happily acknowledge that the music of the old days is still in me – even though I have mostly tended to neglect its presence. It was just recently that I found myself in the kitchen with my smartphone and tiny Bose bluetooth wireless speaker, listening to classic rock being streamed to me from a Spotify account. The conditions for listening to the music were not that great. I was listening to monoaural sound whose fidelity was less than ideal due to lossy digital compression techniques being used, and it was being played through a tiny listening device – not exactly the conditions under which one listens to rock music amplified for its full impact.

But the circumstances did not seem to matter. I was taken back to the old times. I was cooking up a storm to the beat of Deep Purple and Machine Head.

I could still feel it in my bones – never mind the new technology.

The familiar lead-ins…

The beat, almost hypnotic, slowly building up – the rhythm taking over, the body moving to the music on the kitchen dance floor – occasionally with spatula or knife in hand. Can spices and the cutting board be tackled when in a groove with some degree of serious headbanging going on?

Awesome base lines, guitar riffs that seem to go on forever, out-of-the-world chords from the electronic keyboard wailing away, the urgent and high-pitched voices of the singers, a perfect percussion keeping up the beat and preventing it from careening out of control – a potent mix – familiar patterns emerging…. WOW!

The hand gradually moves to the volume control buttons on the playback device – higher and higher it goes – damn it, how can one listen to this stuff without blasting it through the speakers!

The familiar verses emerging from my inner space – Come on, come on, lets go space trucking!

For that instant in time, I was transported to a different mental space. It is more than just a happy moment.

And I wondered, how could anybody not be moved by this sound – and especially in the kitchen while cooking…

And then I am back to my sane place, to the understanding that every generation probably thinks the same way about their own familiar music. I am indeed listening to grandfather rock!

The irony is that one is in much better shape to indulge in the fantasy of high-end A/V equipment during these later years of life, but the mind has moved on to a different state of equilibrium directed by practical matters of daily life. And frugality continues to be part of my DNA. You might be tempted to think that this is an indication of maturity. That is arguable. One can occasionally break out of ones state of equilibrium – one can be taken back to the carefree space quite easily without the encouragement of drugs and alcohol. It is OK I think – as long as variances can be managed.

I still have my vinyl, cassette tapes, and CDs – some of this stuff not touched for decades. I am tempted to once again listen to what I have been missing. What long dead neural pathways in my brain will be brought back to life one wonders.

And then there are the other new toys and indulgences that one has been drawn to in the later years of ones life. I smell another blog!