Things I miss

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 16, 2014 – 12:00am
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Things are moving too fast. The pace of change in many areas in our lives is happening too quickly. What took a few centuries to change can happen now in one lifetime or even less. A definition of a generation used to mean the general lifespan of the people who lived in a specific time before they had children. That was the only way they measured it because psychologically, socially and culturally speaking, things hardly changed from one generation to the next.

Now, a new generation is supposedly born every five to 10 years based on how fast a new set of knowledge and shifting trends in culture and society occur. I look at my children as an entirely different generation from mine. Even my daughters Erica and Ala seem like a generation away already from my youngest son, Mio.

Though I look at myself as a modern person who easily adapts to change, I often have a longing for how things used to be from my time. It is not just nostalgia for the past. We had a lot of good things going then. I wish I could go back and enjoy them again.

1) I loved vinyl records. I used to save my baon and spend my savings buying them. They were cool things.

They came in three sizes. There were the 78 RPM ones which ruled the 1950s. In the ‘60s, there were the 45 RPM records which were called “singles” since they carried one song per side, and the 33 1/3 RPM ones which used to be called long-playing records. RPM stood for “revolutions per minute” because that’s how many times the records turned around when played. One had to have a record player, which people saved up to buy. You could get the cheap variety or the expensive, sophisticated ones with great big speakers depending on your budget.

The records had cool album covers, too, with photos or art designed by famous visual artists. I bought records of my favorite artists and considered my collection of them as some of my few treasured memorabilia from my youth.

In the past 25 years, we saw records metamorphose into cassettes, 8-track players, CDs. And now music is mostly packaged in a digital file format called MP3, accessible through gadgets like laptops, phones and other players. No more big speakers needed to listen to music. All you need are headphones. And gone too are the nice artful album covers.

I had a motley collection of about 400-plus vinyl records I had bought over the years, which perished during Typhoon Ondoy. It broke my heart to see their covers destroyed and the discs filled with mud.

I had to throw them all away. It’s a loss I still feel even today.

2) We used to record music in an analogue way. That basically meant that musicians really played the songs during recordings, and singers had to sing the songs completely. One had to know his chops in the studio. Mostly, musicians played one instrument that they were good at.

These days, anyone with just a little knowledge of music can “play” any instrument via digital keyboards allowing him to trigger “samplings” of sounds on a keyboard and record them. They can now play almost any instrument — drums, percussion, guitar, piano, violins, strings, sitars, harps, all kinds of bass instruments through a keyboard. They can record it slow and play it back in any tempo they wish. They can also quantize the notes for them to sound “perfect.”

Singers can use a digital device called “Autotune” to stay within the melody. What it does is automatically corrects any off notes you may have sung. They can also “cut and paste” parts of the song to put anywhere. All one has to do is, say, sing the chorus once and then copy and paste it to the next chorus to avoid the work of recording that bit all over again.

It is not surprising and actually lamentable that a lot of music today sounds programmed and lacks the touch of real musicians playing it live. Singers can also sound too “perfect” but lacking in warmth.

I miss the “honesty” in the process of making and recording music.

3) I miss the days when all one had was a phone that you could use to call and be called. Life was so simple. If you needed to talk to someone who was not within your physical proximity, all you needed to do was dial his phone number. The interaction was simple. You called, and you were called. If you did not want to be contacted, you simply turned off your phone.

Now you can’t escape from people you know, and even those you don’t really know. Everyone is reachable via phone and social media. People know where you are, and what you are doing. People are involuntarily (perhaps unconsciously) sharing more than they actually need and perhaps even really want to.

One can argue that like the old days, you can actually opt to not be a part of social media. You can shun email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and just disappear from the online scene. True. But with the way people live their lives now, where there is little time to actually physically meet due to traffic, work and a host of other reasons, you can lose touch with everyone just as easily too.

It’s a case of being out of sight and out of mind.

4) Lastly, I miss the slower pace of how people used to lose their innocence. Because of too much information and the pervading presence of porn, sexual stimulation online, drugs, violence and many other things, young kids are getting too “old” and feeling “adult” too quickly. They grow up too soon, many times skipping the simple joys of physical childhood play, like running, playing hide and seek, sitting on a swing and doing outdoor stuff and other things kids of my generation and the previous ones liked to do. In place of it, they are slouched in some corner absorbed with video games and the internet. As a result, they seem to lose their sense of wonder too quickly.

Someone once said that you could lose your virginity in a library. These days, you could very well lose your innocence through a laptop or a cellphone.

There is something sad there. It is uncannily tragic how modernity and progress can inadvertently make life more complicated instead of easier for many people.