History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Boomers weren't all enthralled by loud stereos

We never dreamt such a system would end up like a caveman tool ("Flickrhive" photo).

Symphony orchestras and the places designed for them are in trouble. This I learn following the media.
Symphony orchestras are a large collection of people playing instruments that were developed in the days before electricity. Electricity made possible the rendering of pleasing sounds that can fill a very large place. Electricity makes possible the projection of music over the length of a football field.
We wouldn't have We Fest without electricity.
Innovation has been rapid. It blew my mind when I first saw those tiny speakers that can produce sound just as pleasing as the old "big speakers."
Boomers will remember that "big speakers" were a status symbol when we were college-age. Having an expensive-looking stereo system made you very special. College dormitory residents even put up with this. This has always left me puzzled.
Dormitories are residences where presumably the occupants, however misguided their youth might be, want to keep a clear head. They want some peace or to study, even.
I heard there was once a discussion among UMM leaders about this. Concern was voiced, quite appropriately, about those "loud stereos" and their disruption. But there was pushback. The argument that won the day, according to legend, was "that's a part of their culture."
The young people were being observed as if by an anthropologist. The practical issues were put aside.
My own experience was at St. Cloud State University but I'm sure it was the same.
SCSU students aren't as smart as UMM students, consensus (here anyway) seems to dictate, but our "culture" is the same. Actually the perception that UMM students are "smarter" is probably as off-base as the idea that "stereos" were an essential cultural prop of the boomers. We're thrashing in stereotypes here.
It didn't take many boomers with large stereos to create the impression the devices were a true staple. The vinyl would spin and the volume would erupt.
Because there was a cultural element to this, and because our kind of music reflected the kind of rebellion we were expressing (as against the Viet Nam War), many college leaders gave it a pass. The boomers' parents hated it. But that generation of parents became very resigned about trying to rein us in. In exasperation they'd just leave the house. Go to the Eagles Club.
All these permissive adults failed to realize there was a simple environmental issue here. Loud stereos gave real enjoyment to only a minority of us. I would argue a great many of my generation were actually annoyed. How could you not be annoyed by something like this, that gets foisted on you?
It might not be your kind of music, for one thing. But that's the secondary issue. The fact the volume had to be turned up so cotton pickin' much was an abomination.
The fact that UMM leaders (according to legend) couldn't see that, is just another exhibit of how these people drift around in their own world. My goodness, this isn't to say UMM stood out with its tolerance, because it was futile trying to stop the "loud stereos" everywhere. I'm not sure what was worse, a roaring freight train or the latest "Grand Funk Railroad" LP.
Oh, but it was "a part of our culture," right?
The heck it was. It was a part of the culture of the kids who sought to own the biggest and loudest stereos. They with their little bags of marijuana and bluejeans with holes at the knees. Boys with hair down to their shoulder blades, although I must say that at that time, seeking a "clean cut" look with short hair presented the risk of having people think you favored the Viet Nam War.
So I give a pass on hair length. If you had long hair you had to try to make it look dry and fluffy. I remember buying an electric hair dryer at Benson Drug. (Maybe it was still Messner Drug at that time.)
Marketers used the expression "the dry look." What an era in which to grow up, when length of hair and choice of clothes gave indications of politics. It was the "generation gap" era. Get your hair cut short and you might be called a "narc" (narcotics officer).
The quality of your stereo system could be a badge of status among peers. A really good, really big system was expensive by our standards. A basic principle of marketing came into play. When something is scarce it becomes desirable. If something is expensive it's going to be scarce.
Extremely loud recorded music was expensive if you wanted it to sound clean, with a minimum of "distortion." Remember that term? Remember "woofers" and "tweeters?"
We'd sit sort of spellbound at the cleanest and loudest stereo music.
One of the appeals of disco was that commercial establishments with resources could provide the highest quality loud recorded music. Oh, and we needed that ball of spinning light overhead! There was that silly nightclub in New York City - "Studio 54?" - where fame-crazed and faux celebrities would go and project decadence. Ah, the '70s.
Today, "TMZ" satisfies that same urge to fawn over a certain type of celebrity. Today a lot of things are different - vastly different.
Some cultural factors come into play, but a big cog is "creative destruction" wrought by technology. Today loud music is no longer a badge for college-age kids. What a relief.
Tech has opened up music to where you no longer need to spend a lot of money to project high quality, loud sound. Because the "scarcity" element has been eliminated (as in marketing), there's no need to show off.
Kids can now look objectively at the situation and say "why should I risk damaging my ears?"
They can listen to music just because it's good music. The image of some unkempt college boy playing Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein" with the volume juiced way up, might belong in a museum.
Except that the boomers, now as adults, are trying to disown much of their past. They desperately want to keep their own kids from doing what they did. So, get them playing hockey, even the girls.
We would have been disbelieving if told there would someday be high school girls hockey teams, or even girls running cross country. Drastic change happens. We can't begin to guess what the societal norms will be 30 years from now. I'll bet there will be no more newspapers.
The first pushback against the old "loud stereo" music was the "unplugged" movement. It was as if simple "good music" was just being discovered!
The boomers often used those big headphones with the volume turned up so far you might think our heads would explode like the Martians at the end of "Mars Attacks." So today we might visit the hearing specialist.
Kids today use headphones with their computers. But it doesn't seem necessary for them to have the volume turned way up. They just want to listen to pleasing sounds.
Easily accessible high quality music is making the road tougher for symphony orchestras.
Deny it or not, but symphonies usually attract a class of people fancying themselves upper-crust. It's a social ritual just like for many people, being active in the Elks Club filled a social need. The milkman (as club officer) could get up wearing a tuxedo and give a speech.
I still remember the "milkman" coming to our house in the early 1960s, coming up onto the portico. I likewise remember those mammoth stereo sounds capable (seemingly) of opening up cracks in the pavement.
Technology has brought a world-changing wave of democratization. It is nothing but good.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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