The topic is music and my oh my, how it has changed – not only the popular styles, but church music as well. The thought came to me while listening to my grandchildren talk about their “kind of music.”
My curiosity for more details resulted in a half-hour crash course in iPod 101 from my soon-to-be 16-year-old grandson, Tommy Nourse. He listens to his music on an 8 gigabyte Apple iPod Touch, a hi-tech mini record/video player. Just 2 inches wide, 4inches long and less than one-quarter inch thick, it contains 978 songs downloaded from iTunes on the Internet. The iPod also contains a few TV and movie videos. The sound comes only through ear buds (ear phones).
By comparison, my music is recorded on CDs that measure 4 and three-quarter inches in diameter, each one-sixteenth inch thick. Thus, my 39 CDs with 649 songs measure 2.5 inches thick. The sound comes from the speakers on my 10-year-old Bose combination AM/FM radio and CD player.
Among my CD compilations are 10 big bands, seven spiritual/Gospel hymns, six single instrument, five classical, four polka, three patriotic, three Christmas and one show tunes.
Tommy explained how his music is downloaded from Internet to computer to iPod, with some 100 songs to a gigabyte, noting that a gigabyte is a unit of measurement stored on a hard drive (it means computing a unit of information equal to 1 billion bits).
Since I’m not hi-tech minded, any further explanation would only add to the confusion. I admit I’m hi-tech illiterate: no iPod, DVD, VCR, DVR, cable TV and no cell phone. Yes, I do have a computer for my writing files but no Internet connection.
As my iPod lesson continued, Tommy informed me that his favorite male and female performers/ artists are Lady Gaga, Akon, Jay Sean, Chris Brown, Ludacris, Pleasure P, T.I., Usher, Gucci Mane and Snoop Dogg.
Mine? Frank Sinatra, Frankie Laine, Nat “King” Cole, Perry Como, Dean Martin, Patti Page, Rosemary Clooney, Jo Stafford, Dinah Shore, and more of those ‘40s and ‘50s stars.
Tommy’s bands/singing groups include Owl City, Simple Plan, Smash Mouth, Plain White T’s, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Mayday Parade, Maroon 5, Muse, Paramore, Linkin Park. (Creative names? Yes. Weird? You bet). And what about the Beatles and Elvis, I asked. “Not in my iPod,” Tommy frowned.
My favorites? Four Aces, Four Lads, Crew Cuts, Mills Brothers, Ames Brothers, Andrews Sisters along with the big bands of Woody Herman, Vaughn Monroe, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Harry James, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, of whom Tommy asked, “Who the heck are they?”
I single out Woody Herman and Vaughn Monroe for their local connection. Herman, clarinetist, saxophonist and band leader, was born in Milwaukee in 1913, attended St. John Cathedral High School and Marquette University. His composition and arrangement of “Woodchoppers Ball ” is among my all-time favorites. He died in 1987.
Singer, trumpeter, composer, band leader Monroe was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1911, but started playing the trumpet as a teenager while attending Cudahy High School where, at 15, he became the Wisconsin state trumpet champion. His “Racing With The Moon ” is memorable. He died in 1973.
Tommy described his kind of music as rock, alternative rock, heavy metal, hip-hop (is that like the bunny-hop?) and techno, which he says is “sort of like polka music but a lot different.” He says that although rap is talk set to music, hip-hop is like rap with a beat.
It was English novelist John Wilson who commented: “Music is the universal language,” which tells me that music appeals to everyone, but our likes and dislikes vary greatly.
As I’ve suggested, there’s modern, pop, rock, Top 40, big band, jazz, classical, country, Gospel, Christian, rap, hip-hop, etc. Nevertheless, there’s something in the world of music to please everybody.
My introduction to music began at home in Cudahy, growing up with brothers Severin and Leon – both now deceased – in the 1930s. A wind-up Victrola phonograph – the iPod of my day — consisted of two sections: the top unit was the record player, the bottom unit stored records. We had one in our attic that provided hours of pleasant listening and entertainment. We had only about a half-dozen 78 rpm platters that we would play over and over. I still recall one particular song: “Roamin’ in the Gloamin.’”
As we grew older, radio disk (disc) jockeys captured our listening pleasure. All radio stations featured DJs playing recorded music. Whatever happened to disk jockeys? Perhaps the best way to determine our favorite type of music is to look at our CD/tape/record collections.
My preference for the big band sound dates back to the 1940s and ‘50s at the Riverside Theater. For a buck or two we could enjoy a movie and stage show by any of the popular aforementioned Big Bands. For dancing, some of those same bands came to the old Eagle’s Ballroom.
So far I reflected only on popular music. It seems there also has been an evolution — or revolution — in church music.
In our day, church music, like the Mass, was in Latin. Remember: “Panis Angelicus ,” “O Sanctissima ,” “O Salutaris ,” “Tantum Ergo ,” “Salve Regina ,” sung generally at Benediction. What ever happened to Benediction? Also, I can’t forget the eternal favorite, “Ave Maria ,” still often requested at funeral liturgies.
In English, we sang, “O Lord I Am Not Worthy ,” “O What Could My Jesus Do More,” “Mother Dear, O Pray for Me, “Immaculate Mary ,” “On This Day O Beautiful Mother ,” “Holy God We Praise Thy Name ,” “Come Holy Ghost .”
The daily missalette has more than 150 songs. “The Gather” songbook, for example, has 579 songs. Both include patriotic tunes such as “America,” and “America the Beautiful ,” the “Star Spangled Banner ,” “My Country Tis of Thee .” Patriotic songs in church in our day? Never!
While many of the songs we sing today are uninspiring; some are memorable. One of my favorites from “The Gather” book is “Lead Me, Guide Me,” a tuneful, inspirational song with a message-filled refrain: “Lead me, guide me, along the way; for if you lead me, I cannot stray. Lord, let me walk each day with thee. Lead me, O Lord, lead me.”
Comparing the music we oldsters enjoyed and loved with what we hear today, we’ve come a long way. And, I’m sure future generations probably will say the same.
(Out and About is a regular feature of Mature Lifestyles that looks at issues affecting the older adult community. Horn, a retired Catholic Herald reporter, is a member of St. Roman Church, Milwaukee.)