Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

December 2001

A Musical Commentary

I attended a seminar 20 years ago.

One of the presenters had an intriguing theory on generational differences. He illustrated his theory by comparing how people listened to music. He separated the population into three groups: the traditional, the nontraditional and the in-betweeners. The traditional group liked to listen to music played on large consoles — the more gigantic the piece of furniture, the better — containing not only a record player and radio but even a television. The nontraditional group, he insisted, had all their music listening gear in separate components — the more exposed wiring, the better — with a separate knob or slider to control every aspect of the system.

The third group, which included all the people in the seminar, was caught in the middle. Our group, he explained, was caught between our parents and our children. We were neither the establishment nor the radicals. We were accommodaters, get-alongers, non-boat rockers, non-confrontational, easy going, tolerant, inclusive, empathetic. In short, we were a bunch of freaking mush heads. Anyway, according to him, our approach to music listening was to purchase separate components like our kids, the non-traditionalists, and then get a cabinet to put it all in.

So, if this guy is still around the seminar circuit, I wonder how he's handling MP3.

You perhaps read in the Free Press a few weeks back an excellent front-page coffee-cup piece by Candace Page. It chronicled the music-listening habits of local college students. They were sharing so many music files via e-mail or downloading of songs directly from Web sites that UVM's computer system was getting maxed out. Research and academic uses of the network were being squeezed out by do-wah ditties and gangsta rap.

In the same issue, although not with a front page lead, was interim-President Colodny's citation of the state's meager financial support of the university and a call for just what every other state-funded agency wants, namely, "More!"

So here's the extra point. Twenty years ago, whether you were a geezer, a geezer's kid or a geezer's grand kid (the only three choices 20 years ago), no matter what your rig looked like or whether you called it a phonograph, hi-fi or stereo (again, the only choices 20 years ago) you listened to maybe 10 songs a session. I'm talking 10 songs, whether single sides of 78s and 45s or an LP.

But what these kids today are listening to are play lists that easily run into the thousands. Who knows thousands of songs? Not only that, Apple computer has this hot little $400 number that puts 1,000 or more songs in the palm of your hand.

I'm thinking this is the key to our economic turnaround. We're going to have to rewire the world. Hello, Cisco, Motorola, Intel, Lucent, even Nortel. You're back in the game, guys. Hopefully, UVM gets more from the state so it can increase its bandwidth, you know.

Thanks, incoming freshmen.