Where Words Fail, Music Speaks

Music lovers of a certain age and generation know what purpose this little doo-hickey serves

Hans Christian Andersen has been credited with the quote, “Where words fail, music speaks.” For those who find comfort in tunes and lyrics during hard times, truer words were never spoken. Music has been said to soothe the savage beast within our ravaged souls, it brings endless joy to the listener, it can improve mood and memory and can even improve your workout. The next time you climb on your treadmill or hit the pavement for a brisk walk, know that the addition of music can help you to walk and pass the time even faster.

Music has undergone quite a transformation over the years. At one time, music could only be heard on a crackling radio or by cranking a Victrola and spinning tunes via a 33-1/3 rpm vinyl disc. In 1948, the first 45 rpm record, “PeeWee the Piccolo” was released by RCA Victrola. The record did not require an adapter, though later versions of the 45 rpm required the use of a small yellow plastic piece known as a spindle adapter. They were prevalent in the 1960s, right around the time Mom was playing her 45s on our old radiant heat flooring in Levittown.

I loved those little yellow adapters. I used to think that they were the perfect size for my Barbie doll to whirl across the bedroom like a Frisbee. Quite often, Mom searched frantically for the spindle adapters, only to find them in my Barbie doll case. After that, my sister and I, forbidden from touching the yellow discs, began to pull the rubber stopper out of soda bottle caps for Barbie and her friends to play a rousing game of Frisbee. I still have one of Mom’s old adapters, mainly because I thought they were cool to look at and they brought back wonderful memories of music in our home. I do remember that they were kind of difficult to snap into the center of a 45 without fear of snapping the vinyl in half.
With the advent of 8-track tapes, both of my parents collected various albums by their favorite artists. Dad had an 8-track player in his van to play his tunes, while Mom had a player in the house. To this day, whenever I hear Frank Sinatra sing “It Was a Very Good Year,” I automatically wait for the loud “click-CLICK’ at the end of the song, when the track changed.

My sister and I often collected cassette tapes of our favorite artists or we recorded off the radio. As I mentioned in a previous column, those homemade recordings often had a “zzzzippppp!” sound at the end, where we turned the recorder off. Listening to “A Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney always reminds me of that noise, because it had the loudest “zzzippppp” of any of our recordings.

Once CDs became popular, I realized the need to donate my cassette tapes. I had quite a few of them, but I also had a console stereo system that had a turntable and a cassette deck. I was thrilled to be able to hold onto the cassettes, but because of their age, they often required a pencil to the sprockets to tighten the tape. I have ruined quite a few radios with cassette tapes that were too loose and got caught in the play head and pinch roller. Brown ribbons of cassette tape still give me nightmares.

MP3s and MP4s came on the scene rather quickly, which made CD use obsolete. Using my daughter’s hand-me-down iPod, I quickly became a whiz at downloading tunes to the device. A simple aux cable connected the iPod to our vehicle and voila! Our favorite music could be heard over and over. The only problem was having to delete music to make room for newer material.

Satellite radio, which is clearer and fuller in tone, has replaced regular FM radio. And AM radio is comprised of mostly talk shows and podcasts, though you may still find a station or two that plays actual songs. We still listen to FM when gardening in the yard, though the signal grows weak whenever a plane passes overhead.

Right now, our daughter’s iPod sits forlornly in a drawer with tunes that are at least 15 years old. With an Echo Dot in the home, it has become quite easy to call out from another room, “Hey, Alexa! Can you please play ‘Master Jack’ by Four Jacks and a Jill?” Alexa, the awesome A.I., responds, “’Master Jack’ by Four Jacks and a Jill, playing on Amazon Music.” Alexa knows this song well because my husband requests it on a weekly basis. How music has changed.

While I am unsure of the next music trend for listeners, I look forward to the change. Music has always been a big part of my life, from show tunes and musical numbers I performed to rich classical tunes that warm the spirit on a chilly day. As Plato once stated, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” In good times and in bad, music is often the soothing balm that relieves a multitude of ills.

Patty Servidio is an Anton Media Group columnist.

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