Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Elderly Don't Hear the Same

     A few weeks ago I heard a concert by the Artie Shaw Orchestra. Younger readers wil not be familiar with Artie, but he was a clarinetest, composer and bandleader during the 1930s and 1940s. At the height of his popularity he was reportedly making $60,000 per week, which was pretty good for those times. While I did see most of the popular bands of the 1940s, I never did get to see his, although I did hear him speak at a jazz festival about 25 years ago.
     But I did listen to his records – in fact, I still do. And I am sure that 80% of that audience a few weeks ago also listened to his records, and according to a show of hands, a huge majority had actually heard him in person, and came to the concert because they liked his band. I know that is true of the 30 people in the group with which I attended.
    And here is the surprise – most of the group did not enjoy the concert! The band played Artie's arrangements, and although individual band members played ad lib solos, the leader played the same notes that Artie played on the original records. It was exactly the same music, almost note for note, that they listened to 65 or 70 years ago. What happened? Here are some possibilities:
  • Memory is tricky. We can say we remember an event, but we pass that memory through an unconscious filter: a dynamic pattern of attitudes, habits, internalized values, and modes of thinking. What we remember is only a pale image of the original event. As Mark Twain said, “It isn't so astonishing, the number of things I can remember, as the number of things I can remember that aren't so.”
  • The fidelity of the 78 rpm recording process was not very good. Although we didn't realize it at the time, the music sounded as if it was being played in the next room through a closed door.
  • The acoustics in the auditorium, which was designed primarily for stage plays, was not the same as that of the old ballrooms, which were specifically designed for that type of music. As a result, it sounded much louder and more harsh than it did in more favorable surroundings.
  • When we were younger we were accustomed to loud sounds.
  • Here is a theory of my own: we hear sounds differently. I have noticed, both on TV shows and in normal conversations, that people are either speaking more rapidly or I am hearing more slowly. Even when the sound seems perfectly fine, I do not catch everything that is being said. Since I doubt that people are speaking faster, I must not be hearing, or at least processing sounds, as fast as I did when I was younger. Has anyone else noticed this?
     Anyway, I enjoyed the concert, but then, I was a Stan Kenton fan. His band was loud from the get-go.
     In the previous chapter we discussed how the Spirit works through the use of certain special constructs: internal and external, individual and group. This method of investigation is useful as a crutch, and while it has the advantage of being easily understandable, it has the disadvantage of giving an incomplete picture.
     An In-depth Look At the Spirit's Activity – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The Spirit Runs Through It is available in paperback or on Kindle.

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