Have you ever heard the saying “The only constant in life is change?”
I have often thought about, and more often fought with, that notion. I don’t know how you are, but from an early age, I started to cling to things, wanting certain things to stay the same… the same, dammit, always the same! Of course, this might have been a reaction to experiencing an overwhelming amount of change as a kid… when my parents split up when I was nine, for example. It could also have been in my sensitive nature that caused me to seek predictability and routine…. change tends to be anathema to these things.
Yet this irrational (and futile) notion that things should stay the same isn’t just a personal quirk. We live in an amazing (and sometimes overwhelming) time of change, where EVERYTHING seems to be changing! Let’s just take the subject of technology, specifically how technology has changed the means through which music is now accessed and listened to.
The last 20 years has seen a revolution in the means of hearing recorded music the likes of which has NEVER been seen in human history. When I was a kid, you listened to recorded music on the radio, or at the supermarket, or on a CD player, car stereo, cassette player, or record player. Oh yeah, and then there was this thing called MTV. If you wanted to listen to a song, you had to buy it, swap it from a friend, or record it on a VHS tape (if it was a music video on TV) or cassette tape. Admittedly, this was already quite a lot of options. Yet there was some legwork involved, and often some money, in order to have the option of simply listening to a particular song when you wanted. Also, there was the physical wear-and-tear factor, since all music was somehow played through a physical means: whether the tape of a cassette, or the little grooves on a CD. Either way, there were certain constraints that applied.
Nowadays, through the genie’s lamp that is the Internet, all of us have basically unlimited and never-ending access to all the music we could ever want to listen to, generally for free (or for a nominal monthly fee of under $10) in whatever format we want, whether mp3, streaming, or video. And no physical deterioration can occur through over-use! This is an EXTRAORDINARY quantum leap of change from only a few decades ago. And yes, this increases the diversity and quantity of what we can listen to, and of course, the ease with which we listen to it. You can argue pretty easily that this progress is a “good thing.”
And yet I admit it, inside myself (and I’m sure I’m not alone), there is that part of me that still misses “the old days.” Those days of record stores, and CDs, and MTV. Not because it’s inherently better (because by the objective standards of diversity, quantity, and ease, it is not). But because it is what I got used to... it was part of the fabric of what my life was then, as intrinsic in my memory as my friends, family, the streets I drove down as a kid, the camping trips I took, and childhood Christmas dinners.
I don’t think I’m alone here . As someone in the music field, I pay attention to other people’s attitudes about this topic. Although I cannot verify this other then through my own observation, it seems to me that when it comes to music, people generally don’t like change! I would even go so far as to make the bold (though unsubstantiated) claim that most people spend their entire lives preferring the music (or that which is like the music) they grew up with, specifically 1) the music they got exposed to as young children, from their parents, TV, friends, etc, and 2) the music they and their friends listened to during their high school and college years.
My gut tells me that this probably accounts for much of people’s life-long music tastes (If you have evidence to refute that, by all means, please share). What this means is that, in a time in which our technology and culture seems to be massively upgrading itself (to use a very apt computer metaphor) at least every 10 years, the actual desired rate of change of most human beings, especially most adults, at least when it comes to music tastes, is MUCH MUCH lower. That is because on a fundamental level, by the time we have reached adulthood, most of us pretty much know what we want to listen to, and even how we want to listen to it… namely, we want it the way we had it when we came up in the world, got used to the way things “are,” and formed our identities.
And then they had to go and change everything…
Of course, I am being slightly facetious here. When compared to a CD that can easily get scratched or a tape that can get ruined, there really is no contest with the infinite access of the Internet. And yet old ideas, and old ways, can die hard. I think people are prone to getting attached. So I don’t really think change is truly a nemesis. And as history has always shown, we humans are highly adaptable creatures, much more flexible and able to change than we give ourselves credit for…
I will remember that the next time I miss the days when it really was “the way it is done” that if you wanted to hear an album, you had to put a physical CD (or record or tape) into a physical player.
(This post goes out to Change, oh unruly spirit! who casts its agents upon us at all moments, in every day, and forces us forward in this march called life, sometimes against our own will… and yet we adapt. Thank you, oh strange and exotic ways of the Universe!)