January 15, 2009

Mind the Generation Gap

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My mom called and exclaimed, “I just saw the commercial!” in one of the most excited tones I’ve heard from her in months. She was calling in reference to a conversation we had had about a month prior, when I mentioned a new band I loved who I originally heard on a Sears commercial. Like most technologically illiterate mommies, mine was fascinated by the Internet’s capacity to help me figure out a random song I heard in the background of a commercial. This all rang a bell in my mom’s head about a song she liked in the background of a commercial. However, she couldn’t remember for the life of her, how the song went or in which commercial it was featured.
A month later my excited mommy phoned and it took just a few moments to figure out her musical mystery. A YouTube search for the Kenmore Elite washing machine commercial, 10 seconds of watching, a quick Google search for the lyrics and, just like that, “Imaginary Girl” by the Silver Seas was identified.
My mom was thrilled and wanted to know if the song actually was available on CD. I laughed out loud: “Of course it’s available on a CD!” “Really? Where can I get it?” “Don’t worry, I’ll just get it shipped to you.” Two minutes later the Amazon.com order was completed and by the end of this week my mom will be driving around Long Island listening to the Silver Seas.
This whole process took under five minutes and I probably would have forgotten about it by the next day if it weren’t for mom calling again to say, “You know, you should write about this, Justine.”
Why should I write about this? Because moms are funny? Because the Internet is fabulous? No. I should be writing about this because completing such a menial task which my mom would never be able to perform on her own, reinforces the major differences between my mother’s generation and my own. My mom was able to acknowledge and appreciate this seemingly insignificant event, while I failed miserably. Not only is this division between our generations emphasized in my own musical microcosm, but also in that of the young people in the town of Fort Luton, Colorado.
Last week this small town made national headlines by making some big noise. Teens were just being teens in Fort Luton — blasting rap from their car stereos, practicing in bands in their basements. Unfortunately, they were doing so at a volume too high for the other residents in their community to deal with. So many teens were receiving noise violations that the town Judge, Paul Sacco, decided to take matters into his own hands. Instead of fining the youngsters and hoping that would teach them a lesson, he made a ruling to subject all of the wrongdoers to one hour of listening to music they didn’t want to hear.
For imposing their bass-heavy hip-hop and heavy metal jam sessions on the whole town, the Fort Luton teens had to spend an hour hearing the likes of Barry Manilow, Joni Mitchell, the Platters, Henry Mancini and even the Barney Theme Song — quite a creative punishment for these unlawful minors. While the CNN report claims that the noise-violation crime-rate has dropped in Fort Luton, it slightly kills my music loving soul to believe that Joni Mitchell and Henry Mancini are making such an impact on the teens that the kids are actually turning their volume knobs down.
My mom not being able to use Google is one thing, but teenagers being so musically repulsed by the greats (seriously, I vaguely remember feeling a sense of nirvana when I first heard Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning” at age 14) signifies that our generations are living in different dimensions.
Next week, as my mom is going the speed limit on the L.I.E., listening to her newly discovered L.A. indie band — and getting a taste of the fulfillment of finding a new band in a quirky way — part of my generation will be turning the volume down, abiding by the law and rejecting some of the greatest music ever created — terribly sad in my opinion.
So here’s my advice: If my mom can embrace today’s hipsters, then our generation has an obligation to embrace the hit-makers of the past, even if just for an hour.