the sound of meme

My friend Sam picked me as a baton recipient for the Great Internet Music Meme 2005. Given that music is such a huge part of my being, I relished the chance to run with this challenge.

I used this as a short opportunity to examine my own personal musical anthropology.

My earliest recollections of music in my house were the sounds of Mozart, Peter, Paul & Mary, and The Beatles. My mom would also sing German kids’ songs, many of which I can still hum (even though I no longer remember the words). Going to sleep at night, I’d have the radio on a classical station or KALL, a local AM station that played old radio serials from 9:00-10:00 pm. I ended up “owning” a few records of my own that saw time on my parents’ turntable – primarily kids’ stuff, like Mickey Mouse Disco and the soundtrack to “Hotel Balderdash” (which starred Larry John as Cannonball). It was simple, kid-oriented pop/sing-along stuff.

I also borrowed records and tapes from my parents’ collection, starting with 1967-1970 by The Beatles. I think I first started listening to this album on my own when I was 6 or 7, and I loved the bouncy nature of songs like “Octopus’s Garden” and “Penny Lane.” The tape was a first-generation copy that I loved and played again and again until losing it in Switzerland in 1990.

But I wasn’t much of a fan of rock when I was in elementary school. Save for my Beatles affinity and a liking of ABBA (my dad was a fan), I wasn’t really into most of the pop and rock. I remember thinking less of a third-grade classmate who dug Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2” and it’s “we don’t need no education” lyric – at the time, it was just so wrong to think that school wasn’t a good and cool thing.

Then 1983 rolled around, with the whole Michael Jackson wave from Thriller. Say what you will about MJ today, but Thriller had a sound that was very inventive, with catchy beats, sounds and licks. It was also around this time that I started skiing, and when I joined the RHSM ski team in 1985, my coach, Glenn Gemelli, was really into the local oldies radio station. So I started to dig songs by The Kinks, ? and the Mysterians, The Association, The Temptations, The Hollies and Buffalo Springfield.

(Looking for the meme? Impatient? Click here. You’ll miss out on more fun reading, though.)

Come middle and high school, I started to dig more edgy things, due in large part to my exposure to the hard rock and metal my skiing teammates listened to on their Walkmen. My first concert attended on my own dime was a Def Leppard show (with L.A. Guns opening – they soon evolved into Guns ‘n Roses), which was a trip. Looking back at it, I was this skinny, geeky kid in the GA floor section of the Salt Palace, his ears getting blown out by the volume, but loving every moment of it. I also listened to the aforementioned G’n’R, AC/DC and Metallica.

All the while – starting back in second grade, in fact – I played clarinet in the school band. So I kept listening to classical music, as well as Broadway show tunes. I was particularly fond of Rogers & Hammerstein music (I still am).

It’s at this point – around freshman year of high school – where my current tastes really took off. I rediscovered The Beatles, and started to understand the pathos of Pink Floyd. I started to really dig a lot of 60s and 70s rockers and folk-rockers, such as The Eagles, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Moody Blues, Eric Clapton and his bands, The Who, and the solo Beatles. I also discovered Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel at this time (I was already fond of some S&G tunes, but I didn’t identify them as such). And it was tough to miss U2 (I saw Rattle & Hum on opening night in SLC, probably the last time I saw a film at the long-gone Centre Theatre).

I also started listening to jazz, as my clarinet playing was now split between concert band, pit orchestra and Rowtown, the RHSM jazz band. So I became a quick and eager student of the tunes of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Woody Herman and Chick Corea, to name a handful.

At this time, I also played in a garage band with friends of mine (including Dan), going by the name Sound & Fury. While I originally played clarinet in the band, I soon ended up playing bass in the group (my first – and only – lesson on bass was on a napkin note that Dan scribbled for me at Kostas Cafe). I was also learning music theory in school, so I found myself deconstructing songs as I listened to them (I’ll never hear “Strawberry Fields Forever” or “Because” the same way again).

Since then, there’s been further evolution. After I graduated from high school in 1991, I went to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, where I first heard a lot of top-notch bluegrass, newgrass and folk acts that soon became favorites: David Wilcox, Indigo Girls, Béla Fleck & The Flecktones, Sam Bush and James Taylor all worked into my musical psyche.

College moved me further into the folk scene, with sprite’s influence playing a big role. We’ve been to many Falcon Ridge Folk Festivals since graduating from college, and her grounding in the folk world provided some wonderful perspective on the quieter side of music. I’ve since become a big fan of Dar Williams, Richard Shindell, Vance Gilbert (a fellow alum of Connecticut College), Ellis Paul, and Cheryl Wheeler. I’ve also rediscovered some old friends (Willie Nelson) and new friends (Alison Krauss and Garth Brooks) from the country world.

Rock wasn’t left behind, though. While in college and after, I discovered The Police and Sting, Elvis Costello, Badly Drawn Boy, Coldplay, R.E.M., Robbie Williams, The Rolling Stones (typical Beatles fan, leaving the Stones out in the cold for a while).

So do I have a favorite these days? Is there any one genre that stands out? I seem to have some “safe harbor” artists to whom I always gravitate: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Miles Davis, Vance and Ellis, Richard Shindell, The Who, and Mozart concerti and symphonies.

With that, the meme:

Total volume of music on my computer:
3920 songs, 11 days, 10 hours and 49 minutes, 20.03 GB. (Note that the CD collection that sprite and I have amassed is close to 1,500 discs, most of which have yet to be digitized.)

The last CD I bought:
Flickering Flame by Roger Waters (along with a bunch of compilation CDs)

Song playing right now:
“What Good Is That?” by Vance Gilbert

Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me:
Just five? That’s a bit tough, but when push comes to shove, here are my five ten “Desert Island Discs”:

  • “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys/Brian Wilson
  • “Two Of Us” by The Beatles
  • “So What” by Miles Davis
  • “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-IX)” by Pink Floyd
  • “Clarinet Concerto in A Major (K.622)” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • “The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel
  • “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” by Alison Krauss
  • “Here Comes The Sun” by The Beatles
  • “Hearts And Bones” by Paul Simon
  • “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix, performed by Stevie Ray Vaughan

There could be many more, too….

Five People To Whom I’m Passing The Baton:
Coming up with five new faces for this meme is good, honest fun. While I don’t know many who participate in memes (or even blogging – for them, just leave a comment), this one might bring some out of the woodwork.

  1. sprite
  2. Sam
  3. Adam
  4. Dan
  5. Penny

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