Music and the Pace of Life

I’m going to make a lot of people quite angry with this post.  If I don’t, I’ll go back to the drawing board and try again ;)  (OK. maybe I won’t make anyone mad, but we’ll see)

A couple of weeks ago I went into a franchise of a large chain “sit-down”/mid-tier restaurant.  The place wasn’t crowded, but it was far from empty.  There were a few tables of 20-somethings, obviously friends out for a group dinner, but most tables were young families with the parents in their late-20s to mid-30s and their toddler kids.  Most of the staff were in their late-teens to early-20s.  In other words, discounting the young children, the vast majority of people were roughly in a 15-year age range from very late teens to early thirties.

I noticed the music almost as soon as I walked in.  They were playing a song I hadn’t heard since I was a teen.  After we sat down I continued to listen.  The music was all mid-to-late 1970s mainstream rock and roll.  There was no pop, no R&B, no funk and no disco.  Nor were there any of the more fringe rock genre, like heavy metal, prog-rock (not even “prog-light”, like ELO or Styxx), no glam or anything experimental like Brian Eno.  There was none of the emerging genres, such as punk and new wave.  It was all safe, mainstream rock, what you’d hear on any “This City’s Home of Rock” radio stations back in the day.

I have a confession.  I sometimes listen to ‘70s music.  But when I do, it is more the fringe music, like The Talking Heads, or Yes or (pre-Wall) Pink Floyd.  I even listen to some other things, like Stevie Wonder.  I almost never listen to mainstream rock.

I was unconsciously enjoying the music.  Most of the songs were things I hadn’t heard since I was a kid.  Back in the day, this (mid-to-late 1970’s mainstream rock) would have been the radio soundtrack to my youth and even into my early teen years.  I was happily humming along in my brain (nothing out loud) and mentally tapping my toe (no real tapping) along with it.

And then I noticed something.

Dissonance.

The conversation of all of the millennials around me was in a totally different cadence from the music I was listening to.  They were out of synch.  Once I heard the voices, it grated against the music.  The people were living at a different tempo from the music.

I started to pay attention and realized that all of the music was slow.  No, these weren’t ballads or slow songs, these were (mostly) blues based, mainstream rock songs.  But they had a relaxed feel, almost mellow.  They ambled along, not in a particular hurry to get anywhere.  “Take it Easy”, the Eagles sang in a low key, mellow way.  Nothing was harsh.  No edginess.  Very laid back.  Never in your face.  Take it easy all of it said.

I remember a few things about that era.  Kids would sit and listen to music.  They didn’t do anything else.  They didn’t talk, read, play games. watch TV, etc.  They actually listened.  Another thing is that many used a certain mind altering herb, which was known to mellow people, make them relaxed.  As I listened, I suddenly thought of people taking a toke, nodding to the slow rhythm of the rock song, and saying, “Yeah, man, that’s pretty cool.”  I almost laughed out loud….

I thought about it and something that I knew came to mind – the pace of life has totally changed.  We are rushed, rushed, rushed.  It isn’t new.  It really started in the 1980s, where you had to claw and climb and fight and push to get anything done.  The entire world seemed to have develop ADHD in 1980.  The 30 minute long songs of prog bands from the 70s disappeared in 1981 and those same bands put out 3 minute pop singles to survive (Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, all.  Those that didn’t went the way of the dodo.)  The songs became shorter and the tempo increased.  As did life.  Life accelerated.  I remember being in Italy in the late 1990s and having an almost impossible time slowing down to their pace.   Life was so much more relaxed there.  And that is how it used to be in the US.  At least for kids in the 1970s.

There are people out there trying to slow down the pace of life.  It is very unhealthy to live at a constant 200 mph go.  We are over-stimulated, over stressed and over-tired.  We need to slow down and smell the roses, enjoy life.  We need to remember how to sit back and just listen to music.

Perhaps that chain restaurant is on to something.

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20 thoughts on “Music and the Pace of Life

  1. Pingback: If We Were Having Coffee on the 25th of March, 2017 | Trent's World (the Blog)

  2. Britta

    Well, I’m in that age range you speak of in this post, and I absolutely agree with you. I love sitting and just listening to music. I do this often when I’m on the bus or Metro. Sometimes I just do this at home. Hell, I love just sitting and doing nothing. Maybe this has to do with the fact that I’m a highly sensitive intovert and have an extremely active mind as it is (day dreaming for hours is something I could easily accomplish if I had the time).

    I have a story realted to this from about thirteen years ago. I’d say it was about 2004. iPods were becoming really popular around that time. My mom and I were at a Best Buy looking in the CD section. Somehow we got to talking about the sales associate about the way we listen to music and my mom and I both mentioned that we like CD’s because it allows us to listen to full albums. The sales associate (and this was in 2003 remember) stated, “Really, you do that? I usually just listen to songs I like on the CD.”

    Listening to full albums is something I still do (granted, with Spotify instead of tangible CD’s). Thirty minute may no longer be in vogue, but I think there’s something to be said for listening to the entirety of an album (and listening to the words) without skipping a song in a world of music singles and specially curated playlists (though I do love creating playlists, too).

    I’ve been trying to slow down the pace of my life recently. We DO move too fast…and we have such high expectations for what we can accomplish in the space of a given day. I’ve found, though, that I’m more productve when I give myself down time. I get the stuff I really need to do/care about done–and it’s higher quality because I’m not overextending myself.

    Great thoughts, Trent.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      A lot of people your age do like older music or mellow new music and not everyone your age is glued to the phone. I think part of it is being an introvert, but I’m sure with you part of it was living for several months in Thailand with a very different lifestyle. I think of my brother’s kids who are introverted and more than a little nerdy. They don’t spend even close to as much time on the phone as other kids I know. They do like spending “quality time” in real time. And yet, their pace of life is quicker than what it was like when I was their age.

      The funny thing is, I think at that restaurant I spent more time reading my phone than most of the millennials that were there, and I’m one who uses my phone very little. I almost never text, I do very little social media on it, etc. But…

      I know that there are still “concept albums” being made. I listen to the first couple of songs of a new one by a band I never heard of yesterday. It didn’t have the 30 minutes songs, like old Pink Floyd or other prog bands, but it told a story. And on the fringes, a lot of modern electronica mimics the “old school” sounds of bands like Tangerine Dream. Yeah, some of it gets very hypnotic with its relentless rhythms, which I don’t like, but I know younger people who can sit and listen to electronica all day.

      “Back in the day” there were plenty of people who only listened to the hits. I’d pick up an album and they’d hate everything on it except the one song they heard on the radio. Once the radio started to play another song, suddenly that song became OK too. Back then people made “mix tapes” of the music they wanted to listen to.

      Actually, I still like to have a physical CD, but the first thing I do is rip it and put it on my iPod. I always use lossless compression to get the highest quality (my biggest gripe about music today is quality is actually less than it was 20 years ago). I have used online services, like Spotify and Pandora, but I use iTunes/iPod most of the time (I have 120 GB of music on it) and my Amazon player. I very rarely actuality touch the discs again, but I like having them for some odd reason – at least 50% of the music I’ve bought in the last five years has been discs and not download. Recently I set up an ancient CD player in my exercise room and use CDs there.

      Anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent. I think we all do need to slow down. Our devices should serve us instead of the other way around. I really can’t see the acceleration of pace continue, and I think a lot of people around your age agree. I have a lot of theories (what would unemployment be like if everyone worked 20 hour weeks instead 60?) but won’t bore you with them today.

      I’m glad you liked the post. Always nice to see you drop by.

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  3. Deborah the Closet Monster

    I love this post so much. When I ditched Twitter a few weeks ago, I thought it would be for a little while. But in its absence, I’ve realized: I was filling moments as if there were no consequences for doing so. Especially since I happened to read Neil Postman since ditching Twitter, I am now, already keenly aware of the consequences. I don’t think I’m going back. I think there’s more listening and quiet moments in store for me, and that is great … far less frustration, far less exhaustion, far fewer days getting to the end and realizing I barely saw my kids.

    Also, I *just* heard Brian Eno on a podcast this morning. Seeing his name here, then, made me laugh and feel like I must just be on the right track. For now. :)

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Our devices are supposed to serve us, not the other way around. I hated Twitter when I used it because it constantly bothered me. I would turn off all alarms, and it would push an “upgrade” the next day that turned all of the alarms back on. I’m sure you are getting a lot of peace without it! And more quality time with your boys.

      I don’t hear Brian Eno every day (unless I want to ;) ), so it is a funny thing that you heard his music this morning and read his name this afternoon. Serendipity?

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

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  4. Mrs. Completely

    Music is more than just music to me. There is something in the rhythm or the layers or the vocals that I absolutely need to be able to function. I don’t know how to explain the way music affects my head-space. Sometimes I just need the rhythm of the blues and other times I need classical and sometimes I need happy/skippy. So I haven’t noticed the increasing tempo of music to life but it’s interesting to think about. I have noticed though that the music from the late 60s and most of the 70s is very popular, probably for the reasons you outlined. There is simply nothing objectable about it. :o)

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Music is very important – it has the power to shape our moods and emotions more than any other art. I’m with you, there are times I need certain types of music. I have a very large range that I listen to depending on my mood. And you may be right about 70s music. Very rarely do I hear any rock or pop music that isn’t closely related to something from the 70s, it seems like the wellspring of “modern” music.

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  5. DailyMusings

    You brought me back to the days of sitting in my bedroom with my BFF and listening to Dark Side of the Moon or Eat A Peach or maybe Deep Purple. Later it was Talking Heads, The Shirts and The Clash.We did just sit and listen, yes sometimes a little weed made it even more laid back. Everything today moves at warp speed, everything is instantaneous, and so it goes. There is something to be said for disconnecting now and then, taking it easy. There is some current music I do like that is more mellow, that I know the words to and sing along with. I so agree that we need to slow down!

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      OK, I’ll admit that I sometimes still turn out the lights and listen to Wish You Were Here ;) No weed, but I don’t need it. I also do the same with some Beethoven symphonies, CDs of Bach’s WTC and other classical. And some jazz. I can’t imagine anyone I know under 40 doing that. They have to be doing something all of the time.

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  6. nonsmokingladybug

    I bet in the 70’s -somewhere- a writer wrote a similar article. Back then they wondered if life would be mellower if the music from the 20’s and 30’s would be played more often. Perhaps somewhere in the future, somebody will call the music from today mellow.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I agree for the most part. The pace of life has increased, and certainly the last 100 years has seen it really go up. But then, listen to, say, be-bop form the 40s and 50s. It is fast, furious and hard hitting. Even some swing from the late 30s and early/mid 40s has a more forward pace, if not faster, than 70s rock. The funny thing about that is the swing rhythm is much laid back than the rock rhythm, which tends to be driving. Listening to Chuck Berry over the last week, that is much harder core than the mainstream rock of the 70s. Chuck was hard hitting. I think the 70s was a mellow period overall, at least in Middle-America, white mainstream. Punk? Not mellow. Funk? not mellow. OK, some funk was mellow, but most wasn’t. But mainstream, white-bread, mid-America Rock and Roll? Mellow.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      There is mellower music out there, but it isn’t mainstream. And then there is more mainstream music that has a low key feel to it, but not as laid-back or slow tempo as 70s music. I think one part is that music follows life, is a mirror of life, not the other way around.

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