21 November 2007

We Shall Not Be Moved

I was going to post a picture for Wordless Wednesday, but I got waylaid by Julie’s Hump Day Hmm topic – music: What does it mean for you, in your life? Do you simply listen? Are you a singer? A musician? Were you one? The picture can wait. The earworm in my head is trying to crawl out.

My musical upbringing was idiosyncratic, completely.

I grew up with show tunes and folk singers on the stereo – Hair, Joni Mitchell, A Chorus Line, Tom Paxton, Candide, Odetta. I grew up with a favorite recording of Britten’s "Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra" – a rare recording without narration, because who needs narration when the music tells you what’s happening?

By high school, I was hanging out with a geek crowd. Other than classical music, the only two songs I remember listening to in high school were “Stairway to Heaven” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”. Pretty lame, huh? Don’t bother with the math – I graduated from high school in 1978.

I ended up as a music major in college – and therefore listened to and played mostly classical music. And I went to a lot of concerts. The aberration was Bruce Springsteen – I spent many an evening listening to Bruce while drinking Mount Gay rum & Tab and playing Boggle.

The fall after I graduated from college, I spent four months in London, working but alone. I still had my student ID, and I used it to go out to concerts, operas, ballets 5 or 6 nights a week. And while in graduate school, I went out a lot – to concerts, operas, ballets, and the occasional night club.

But gradually, slowly, I’ve very nearly given up attending live performances of classical music. I’d simply rather not be in a concert hall. Because, it’s boring. And that saddens me. Because if I can’t bear it – me – who used to play the flute and who majored in music in college and who actually knows some stuff about what's going on – where the hell is the audience going to come from? I don’t even listen to all that much classical music anymore – because too often I’m in the car or on the train and I just don’t have the attention span that a 25 minute symphony requires, not to mention the fact that many of my CDs never got unpacked when we moved more than three years ago.

I’d much rather listen to stuff on my iPod – I’m addicted to shuffle. I put the thing on random and enjoy the felicitous (or not) juxtapositions of Bob Dylan against Stephin Merritt, Wilco followed by Sweet Honey in the Rock, Emmylou Harris after Brian Wilson, Billie Holiday next to the Talking Heads, Morphine before Jeff Buckley. Or sometimes I listen to all the versions of "Hallelujah" in a row (I've got five). And I add stuff – I rummage around on the web or in iTunes, I follow through on suggestions, I hear what co-workers are playing through their computers in the office, I buy the new Springsteen record. I own one Fiona Apple song because I heard it on Jonathan Schwartz’s weekend radio show – and it’s divine, though nothing else of hers grabs me. I even downloaded a free song that I got because I bought a cup of coffee at Starbucks. And that’s today’s earworm: Mavis Staples singing We Shall Not Be Moved. It’s a great song, a protest song, and she does it with power and subtlety. It’s so good that I think I need to buy the whole record.

Julie - you pushed a couple of buttons. I think I have at least two more posts related to this one, if not more. Because I didn't talk about playing music. I didn't talk about singing. I didn't talk about the future, I didn't talk about the joys of modern technology. So, stay tuned.


painted maypole said...

loving this topic.

i never had the classical music bug, not really, so having done this opera has taught me a lot. now I love listening for how the music repeats themes and how the tempo and styles for the different characters reveals so much

Maewen Archer said...

What a great post -- I can completely relate. I've had the same experience with live classical performances -- I loved them at one time, but now I can't sit through anything.

Anonymous said...

It's funny. I've had the opposite experience -- classical music has grown on me. Watching my sons and how they feel about the string section, I have learned to enjoy it more. Perhaps that love will return to you.

Why the countdown to January 20, 2009??

Julie Pippert said...

What's great about this topic (and I can say this without being self-aggrandizing since Emily suggested it) is how universal it is. I think almost everyone relates deeply to music in some way on some level.

Your story is so intriguing.

My husband and I used to have season tickets to the symphony,but when we started to doze off more than anything, we stopped. But the concert hall was always full (then again, Boston). We just got too busy thus tired. Sitting still in one place with lovely music put us out.

Now, I have found modern composers I quite like, especially some out of South America who play around with classical structures mixed with indigenous sound.

And I can't BELIEVE I left out Paradise by the Dashboard Lights and Stairway to Heaven.

At EVERY dance with my youth group in high school the DJ (a fellow teen) played Rock Lobster and we ALL did the dance, and every dance ended with sweaty bodies clutched together for Stairway to Heaven.

Bittersweet that song is, for the dances I had another body to clutch and ones I didn't.

Paradise is a big tradition, so big my cousin had it at her wedding reception and all of us in this age group went out and amused the olders and youngers by singing THE WHOLE THING.

Oh and I got YOU going!

First, I am SO GLAD and look forward to more.

Second, clearly you got ME going too LOL.

Using My Words

Unknown said...

I love it when a topic gets into you and you didn't realize you had so much to share! I liked this one, it tells so much about YOU.

MadMad said...

Awesome topic! And now I'm having all these Stairway to Heaven/Paradise/Angie! You're beautiful... flashbacks.

Girlplustwo said...

great study on your musical motivations...i love all the access to music we have now - we can find the stuff from our youth and mix it up w/o all these CDs...just single songs.

Janet said...

I was intrigued yesterday when one of my husband's clients dropped by to pick something up at our house. He's rather a loud, boorish type of guy. He opened the door to his vehicle and classical music came spilling out.

Dude. I was not expecting that. Stereotypes are so limiting, aren't they?

Thanks for sharing your passion of music. It was a great read.

Suz said...

Please post more on this topic...I'm always looking for more music and am loving my iPod, as well.

I have only one version of Hallelujah, but am prone to listening to it five times in a row, does that count? It's a perfect song for the airplane.

What else are you listening to? I'd love to know!

S. said...

Your iPod and mine have a lot in common!

Julia said...

Two things. One, I've got to get me what's on your iPod. I got so lazy about adding music since I loaded my original collection... Yours sounds great. And two, I didn't come to this country until the last decade of the last century, so I missed all kinds of things and all kinds of music. I just heard this song on the radio last week, in a different version, but still, and it has been playing in my head on and off since then. I agree-- great song.

Mad said...

sounds like we have a lot in common, i-pod-wise. 5 versions eh? There's Cohen himself, Jeff Buckley, kd lang, John Cale and...?

BTW, you must post a picture of those felted handbags when you're done. I love felted art.

niobe said...

I'm more or less musically blind and pretty much the only thing I can understand about it is the lyrics.