Thursday, May 21, 2009

Where The Music Takes Me.

Pajiba posted an article concerning the relationship between ones musical tastes and ones tendency toward racism, homophobia, age, etc. I began the article immediately infuriated by the ridiculousness of the idea. Because my musical collection does not contain a high enough number of artists of colour, or the majority of my selections are too 'white', could a person suppose I am racist? Balderdash (that word is fun, say it out loud, g'head, tell me you can do it without cracking a smile)! I am glad I continued reading though. A portion of the way through the comment thread the author of the article defended his position as tongue-in-cheek. Ok, I can understand that (I submit my blog title as evidence), but still, I call bad taste.

I started thinking about musical preferences and what they reveal of the listener (which may have been the real point of the article). Specifically, what does the music I listen to tell a friend or a colleague about me?

As with many children, I was influenced first by my parents selections. Essentially, my father held greatest sway over my ear. I cut my teeth on Dylan, The Stones, and The Beatles. I learned to walk to the likes of Hank Snow and Hank Williams Sr & Jr. I believed for an eternity that Joe Cocker's Beautiful was written just for me, my father sang it to me so often. I have made mud patties to a Led Zepplin soundtrack, my Barbies danced to the ballads of John Prine and David Alan Coe. I could sing verbatim: Alice's Restaurant, Freakin' at the Freakers Ball and Patricia the Stripper at far to young an age. School's Out For Summer was played at the end of nearly every school year when my Dad was there. I think I saw Good To See You Again before my tenth birthday. My favourite song of all time, hands down, second to none is Meatloaf's For Crying Out Loud.

My first album purchase was actually two: True Blue - Madonna, and Thriller - Michael Jackson. My Dad's heart may have died a little that day, but hey, I was testing the waters. Experimenting. I listened to pop for awhile, I thought Cyndi Lauper's style was rad! It didn't take me long to find my way back to something a little closer to home, although I hadn't strayed far in the first place. I was still listening to Dad's albums: CCR, The Steve Miller Band, Graham Parsons. The first two tapes I ever bought were Appetite for Destruction - Guns N Roses and Back in Black -AC/DC. I loved screaming lyrics and banging my head. My metalhead never fully matured though, Metallica was as hard as it got and only a few songs at that. I couldn't handle it, the likes of Iron Maiden, Megadeth, they scared me a little, they all seemed so angry. The music they made sounded like so much noise to me. But I revelled in the hair bands; Bon Jovi, Poison, Cinderella, Whitesnake, the list is so long. I dreamed like every other 12 year old girl and bands were pumping out anthems for my dreams like candy.

Around about '89 or '90 I got my hands on a tape. I don't remember where I found it, if it was given to me or by who. It was all rap and I loved it. I had no idea what it was because everyone I knew listened to hair bands, but it made both of my parents cringe and that made it a-okay in my books. I mostly can't remember what was on it exactly, some Ice-T (if you are under the age of, say 25, you may not know this but Ice-T was one of the O.G.'s and he was cool!), a little Public Enemy, maybe some NWA, and various other early thug types. What I do remember for certain was the song by Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five. I also remember thinking my parents wouldn't get my 'new' music, I remember thinking how archaic their tastes were. I was in my room listening to the song on my ghetto blaster, singin' along and my Dad walks in. "C'mere' he says, "I want to play something for you". I rolled my eyes and thought this was another desperate attempt to bring Daddy's Girl back to Daddy's music. But I was Daddy's Girl and couldn't say no, so I followed him to the living room and watched him put the vinyl disc on the turntable (so antiquated), then place the needle ever so gently at the beginning of the song he wanted. What happened? I got schooled, that's what happened. I got a whole silver platter full of my own smug handed right back to me. My Dad was playing Steppenwolf's Magic Carpet Ride. My new found rap stars had sampled, no, covered a Steppenwolf song! World's collided! I had thought I was blazin' a musical trail. I was going to be one of the first in my world to embrace rap. At the tender age of twelve I was certain my fathers music was dead (we should all reserve a little of that cocky, that absolute surety for later in life), I was assisting in the ushering in of a new age (yet, it never crossed my mind that my hair bands were trying to replicate the greatness of bands before them). I didn't realize it all at once but my father was the catalyst to the realization that the new music could not be without riding the coat tails a little of the music before them.

My tastes continued to evolve (or not, you decide). I spent 2 years listening to groups like Jodeci, Shai, Boyz II Men almost exclusively. I discovered the joys of reggae and my love for dancing (which I don't do well, but do anyway, much like my singing, come to think of it). My future husband introduced me to a little more of the 80's (what I hadn't heard while listening to my hair bands), I still didn't like much of it but I could stomach it. He dared me to listen to rap for a better reason than rebellion and I discovered intelligent lyricists. He challenged me with music in another language. I reeled at the idea at first. What was the point?! My deepest enjoyments in music often resulted from lyrics, rap was the only exception until my hubby. Honestly, the music could be all kinds of horrible, but if the lyrics caught my attention, I was hooked. So what was I supposed to do with something I had no way of understanding? Fall irrevocably in love with the feeling a song can summon. That's what. There aren't many, I still find it difficult to dig a song I can't understand, but if it gets it's hooks into me, I'm a goner. Alternatively, I taught him to get past Bob Dylan's drone and appreciate the poet (which he can do once in awhile). I have introduced him to Rock and Country songs he had never been in a position to hear or appreciate and he does (Mr. Sprite likes when his music elicits one of two reactions: happiness or hyperness, he hates all of the stuff that makes him angry and/or sad).

I learned to play the violin a little a few years ago and that experience taught me to appreciate a very small amount of Classical. Up until then, I found it insufferable. It's best quiet, in the background when the task at hand requires concentration. Blues also ranks high in the insufferable's (g'head, lynch me!), but there are exceptions to every rule. Except dance (house, techno, trance, whatever your brand of poison, it's all the same to me), dance makes me want to hurt the source. Really heavy metal (I don't even know what it's called anymore) makes my ears bleed. I try being more open, because I have discerned effects from music that I wouldn't traditionally listen to. Case in point: Men of the Deep, a group from Cape Breton who sing about mining. I don't like it all, but the harmony is beautiful and a friend is giving me a cd this weekend based entirley on the love of one Portishead song. It may be hit or miss but I think the hits will be hard ones.

So what does all of this say about me (besides that I enjoy talking about myself)? I've touched on the more frequently played portions of my rotation but the songs and bands mentioned above are by no means an exhaustive list. In fact, one could draw entirely different conclusions if you were to spy my differing play lists from one day to the next. Today my choices may include Neil Young and Allanis Morissette. You may say I am patriotic and outspoken. Tomorrow, Lupe Fiasco. They have little more in common then their joy in telling the industry they will not fit the mold. The next day, however, I may be listening to the top 40. Not exactly fighting the system. I don't stick to a particular era, I am just as likely to be caught belting out with Patsy Cline as Beyonce. I don't prefer black to white or vice versa, but the representation of the world population is thin. I'm not trying to make a statement, my ear candy may be political right now and ridiculous later. I cannot be defined by genre, I am genre-less.

I will however tell you, my music is a great indication of my mood. If I am listening to something because I can sing along, look out, I am on a mission. When I am done I will be hoarse and the object of my mission will be complete. If ballads are my choice, I am working through something. I am singing along but standing still, all the motion happening in my grey matter. If I am rockin' out, head bangin', I am excited, I have energy to burn and have apparently forgotten my last session and the subsequent whip lash. If I am butchering a Caribbean accent and dancing to old school reggae, I am feeling pretty confident and just want to have a bit of fun. If I am listening to my father's music, and yes, in my world that is a genre, then I am usually feeling nostalgic, pensive. Occasionally, I will be listening because I have heard something new and am just learning to appreciate it, which leaves me feeling giddy. A phone call to Daddy will soon follow, much to be discussed. If hip hop beats are resetting the rhythm of my heart, I am all cocky and rebellious today (cliche or not). Country and Western, I am both nostalgic and badass (obviously, while I don't shun it, CMT's pop country need not apply). Certain songs will elicit immediate results; it is nearly impossible to control myself when Hells Bells starts, Sam Stone almost always makes me cry even though I know it word for word. Other songs will never garner a response and therefore are paid little heed.

No, music can not tell you who I am, Hell! I can't do that most of the time! But if you are listening to my music, it offers an indication of my frame of mind. And if you have time for a story, music will be my soundtrack, it will set my stage, lend weight to my tale and wind it's way through my history.

Edit- I won't change it in the actual post, but I will tell you here; I have been corrected. My Father: The Musical Erudite tells me Mr. Parson's name was not Graham (as I have recorded it), but Gram. And yes, my Daddy reads my blog. Wanna make sumthin' of it?

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