Tuesday, August 5, 2008

In Which Thora Learns She's the Bee's Knees

I'm not a musical person. Oh, sure, I played classical Guitar and the violin as a child and in school and such, but what I mean is that I'm not the kind of person who would ever own an ipod. I'll go weeks never listening to any music at all, and when I do half the time it's “Happy Tappin' With Elmo”, for Lydia's benefit. Usually I listen to music when no one else is there (well, grown-ups, Lydia and Elisheva don't count in this), so either in the car when I turn it up loud and sing to it, or when I'm cleaning the house, when I also sing to it. Unless there are no lyrics, of course. I most definitely do not sing along to The Planets.

Ever since high school others around me have had their music tastes, and sometimes they were eclectic and unique vocalists with something to say in a alternative rock way, and sometimes they were mass-publicized and Pop with nothing to say, but most of the time they were eclectic and mass-publicized and all saying the same things about nothing. I was eclectic too, but not in the hip and cool way (insert appropriate slang for my generation here, because I can't think of any). I listened to Cat Stevens and Peter Paul and Mary, not because they were retro and unique, but because we happened to have their records and I liked the way they sounded and I could sing along to them while I played solitaire on the computer. The first CD I ever owned was Gregorian Chanting, picked out by me as a present from my parents for my birthday when I was a teenager, about 13 or 14. I never bought a CD for myself until I was a junior in college. It was Moving, an albulm of Peter, Paul and Mary's.

Suddenly I became wild, and bought CDs like cheap classical ones at Walmart (the best of Baroque, etc) and even a Tim McGraw greatest hits (I'm a sometimes country person) and the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou. Actually, basically all of my meager personal CD collection came form these few months.

Then, I got engaged and married and didn't have lots of disposable income for my developing music interests, and just took up exploring Avram's already very extensive music collection. From that I broadened my retro music tastes to Arlo Guthrie and Tanglefoot (a Canadian fold group. They're great). Hey, Avram even gave me a CD of Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens – he converted to Islam a long time ago) singing Muslim themed songs. Arabic, Cat Stevens, all in the same place: I love it when my interests coincide.

Mostly though in the last four years I've not thought about music much at all. Until yesterday, when Mom Shannon was trying out a Christmas CD, and hearing it in the other room, I listened to the low, almost jazzy sound of the female singer and realized how much I really liked it. And that reminded me of a music preference of mine; low, mellow female voices, ala Fiona Apple (her first albulm Tidal) and Nora Jones.

Suddenly today I've been looking them up on itunes and listening to two second snippets (it would be thirty seconds, but our dial-up Internet can only deliver the severely shortened versions) and remembering how much I really like their voices, and music style.

And all of a sudden, for the first time since I was in high school, and thought that Alanis Morissette was quirky and Tori Amos's voice beautiful and lyrics genius (and confusing), I realized that I have bona-fide music tastes. And not being in high school any more, I don't need to worry if people around either know or don't know what I'm listening to, and I don't need a cohesive listening genre anyway (this last thing really stopped me, after all, I like bits from almost every genre). See, I feel less frumpy already, because twenty something homemakers who only listen to Seseme Street are frumpy and forgotten, but a twenty something homemaker who has her own vibe and tastes is the bee's knees.

I also explored in two second snippets Carmina Burana, and polyphonic French religious female music like the Anonymous 4 and Hildegard Von Bingen, and I love it. I love it all. Even more amazing, I want to buy it! What I mean here, is I put it on a list, and let Avram buy it for me for birthdays or Christmas, because I have a hard time justifying spending money on music, or books. Avram has the opposite problem; he can buy all the music or books in the world, but balks at things like clothes (which I definitely can buy). He even had a shirt when we got married that read, “When I get a little money, I buy books, and if any is left, I buy food and clothes,” - Erasmus. So I buy him his clothes, and he buys me media and we're all happy.

I don't expect I'll take up ipods and go to concerts, or anything – I haven't had that large of a change of heart. I do feel like I have tastes and they are valid, and I don't need to apologize for not being a music person, because I am one, even if a small one. And whether this means Medieval Baebes (medieval lyrics set to modern Medieval-ish arrangements) or The Fellowship of the Rings soundtrack or even Iz's Over the Rainbow, it's my tastes and I love them.

What do you love?

P.S. I'm continuously amazed by how we our whole lives, but especially in High School, have to be different from everyone around us, but only in carefully pre-arranged ways. Not just in music, but in everything; in clothes, where countless kids express their individuality by all wearing the same color, black, or in all media, where we watch the same popular movies, and read the same popular books about Vampire romance, and be ourselves – just like every one else. We all want to be different, but not too different, then that's just weird.

Now, I'm not condemning something just because everyone is doing it – that's as silly as condemning something because it's different. For example, the greatness that is Lord of the Rings isn't lessened by everyone now liking it. My religious values also aren't lessened because 13 million other people are Mormon and believe what I believe as well. Neither is wearing a medieval clothes and a cloak ridiculous because no one else around is, or being a stay at home mom and having a large family when most of the western world mocks this decision.

I could go on, but I'll end this subsequent soap-box to the main post.


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  2. Sorry, I misspelled something in the fist comment.

    Three of my all-time top favorite NEW(ish) albums are:
    Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robot, by the Flaming Lips (check out the song of the same name on itunes)
    Just Another Diamond Day, by Vashti Bunyan, which was actually recorded in the '70's but did not take off until it was re-discovered a few years ago. Her album is based on her trek across somewhere in England/Europe(?) in a gipsy caravan that she and her husband purchased. it's a folksy album and i bet you'd like it.
    Our Endless Numbered Days, by Iron and Wine. another folksy album, and wow he has an amazing voice! (check out the songs "Each Coming Night" or "Passing Afternoon"-very romantic).
    If you like mellow, I highly recommend the last two albums.
    And, gotta second the Yusef Islam! He's one of my first music loves.

  3. I was such a musical and literary snob in high school and college. I loved my music deeply, and actually took great comfort from the fact that I liked something that few other people knew about, or understood. Even today, I'm somewhat uneasy that some of my youthful "secrets" like Lord of the Rings have become much more mainstream.

    I think we feel this way because our cultural tastes can make us feel different — special — even though we already are. And nobody wants to feel like they're no different than anybody else, even though that's true, too.

    I interviewed a famous bluegrass musician once, and we started talking iPods. He browsed what I had on mine, and I was somewhat apologetic, saying I knew there was probably other stuff I should be listening to instead. He told me, essentially, that we should listen to what we like, regardless of whether it makes somebody's list of "important" music. I have tried to take that to heart.

  4. For me I love resonate music that fills space. Until I listened to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir live I really didn't care for them more than any other choir. However when I heard them sing and the sound resonated against me I like them a lot better. Right now I listen to a lot of Auna(A celtc Choir), Loreena Mckenit, and Sigur Ros. You know Thora a good way to discover new music without having to slog through Itunes is to uses pandora.com they are a customizable radio station that lets you choose a song style and go from there.They are very good at matching song styles and music styles while giving you a choice to like or reject songs or artist. Over time it evolves to your taste.

    Okay artist I like
    Matisyahu for his Judaic Regge
    U2- They were the first band I liked partially because the were Irish
    Sigur Ros- A Icelandic group whose keening vocals and symphonic undertones produce music that often leaves me breathless. Also you have to like a band that created their own language for a song.
    Red Hot Chili Peppers- Their lead singer is wonderful and their music is catchy.
    Loreena Mckennit- Very good celtic music with middle eastern themes.
    Auna- Celtic Choir sings wonderful Christmas music as well as a beautiful rendition of Christus Resurgens.
    Wolegemut- I like their songs and their CD but mostly I like their performances
    Daft Punk- Very Clever Techno/Industrial I still can't shake liking Techno from my days in Highschool.

    Well that's my list right now.

    As to individuality-

    Conformity is not as bad as people make it out to be. Sure wearing black and thinking about vampires is a odd thing but it's one of those growing stages where we are learning to create our own identity. Sometimes we find that our own identity is to be part of a crowd or a group this is not a bad thing. Ideally this group should be the family but it can expand to include friends, clubs, congregations.
    So even though it may appear that children are conforming to express their individuality it is their way to express their self. Over time they fade. I've rarely seen a goth over 30 mostly because they realize that the "angst" is just a normal part of life and they go on to be productive or retreat from the world to mope alone.

  5. Thinking about the "I want to be an individual like everyone else" phenomenon, here is a cool website of photographs done by an artist who went around photographing people and putting them into groups based on their "look". I believe the artist calls each group a "tribe".

    It is really fascinating. Beware, however, a few of the portraits are of topless hippie women (taken in Canada or Europe where it is legal for a woman to be topless.)

  6. First.. Happy Tappin' With Elmo? Far be it from me to offer parenting advice, but I think Lydia would be much better served with a nice grounding in Baroque music. Some velcro restraints and Bach's "Art of Fugue" should work wonders!

    Second, it's perfectly possible to sing along with 'The Planets' viz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R7iqt5bjng

    As for musical tastes? I've fallen into my oldest musical habit, by rediscovering J.S. Bach, in all his moods, modes and guises. I'm smitten all over again. My parents had this tape - Bachbusters - of this fellow who played Fugues, Inventions and Sinfonia on an old analog synth. I wore the tape out in the listening, and ever since have loved the fellow's music.

    You know he was once involved in a duel with a bassoonist?

    Also, Handel's not bad either. Listening to proper choirs singing oratorio has really changed my opinion of choir music. Don't know why, but I've been really connecting with alot of the sacred music - Latin Masses, St. Matthew's passion, motets, the Christmas Oratorio.. I blame my study and growing love of Milton, which directed to to a reexamination of Donne's sacred poetry and then to his sermons...

    Must be that I'm getting old.

    I'm sure that Avram can tell you about some of my other musical tastes though. They used to wake me up mornings at high volume.

  7. Oh yes. Thomas Tallis. How could I forget about poor Thomas?

    His "Spem In Alium" is among one of the most perfect pieces of music ever set to paper, in my humble.


  8. I didn't want to be an individual just like everyone else. I had one shining rolemodel of a real individual: My 10 years older sister Elizabeth. I wanted to be an individual just like her. That lead to my love of '80's music, irish bands, and They Might Be Giants. Musical tastes that actually came from my self include bluegrass (specifically Nickel Creek and Ryan Shupe and The Rubber Band--an informational note: Ryan Shupe gives an awesome concert. Nickel Creek not so much. The music is wonderful, but they don't know how to interact with an audience.) I do enjoy classical music, but I am woefully ignorant about it. I know a few pieces, and a few things about a few composers, but mostly it all blends together into one continuous flow of the same good thing out of which occasionally I will hear something that gives me reason to exclaim, "hey, i think we played that once in Jr. High!"
    Um, I think I've determined that I like at least some songs from just about every genre. I do love Cat Stevens (All I ever knew of him was when he was still Cat Stevens, so that's what I still call him.) and Peter, Paul, and Mary.
    I like John Williams soundtracks (i.e. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc).
    I'm sure I have other musical things to say, as well, but I'm done thinking about them.

  9. Disclaimer: i dont know how to spell. I just dont and well i have decided that i am still a good person who is not stupid jsut confused and dyslexic and i cant spell. So sorry for all my mistakes.

    well i have always had weird musical tastes.. not even close to "normal" i would imagine. how all my dates went in college " so what kind of music do you like" " ummm... well i like classical" chirp chirp goes the crickets....

    I LOVE classical music. I dont know why. It speaks to me. I have about 4 dozen classical cd's from bach and mozart, to hayden and vivaldi. I have full orchestra ones and then cd's of piano only works and then i have modern versions of them that are changed up a bit and then i have the ones that are mixed artists from the baroach period. I love pachabells work, not the cannon but everything else!! yes he did write other songs and my favorite song ever is one of his that i swear no one ever cares about and i just love it. I think i made mom listen to it once. I would tell you what it is but i cant remember what its called ( umm i love music, i have no memory. i know what number it is on the cd... call me i will play it for you!)

    So all i listened to was my classical, never the radio or tape or cd. then when our parents married amy introduced me to country and i realized i liked it and i liked singing along to music. Also in college i found htat i really enjoyed country dancing so i became really familiar with the music from that. I miss the dancing alot in my borning housewife married life. ahhhh.... anyways. When i started dating mark i had to listen to what he did which was U2 and i mean he had every cd they ever made.. so I could sing along to every u2 song now. I also found that i love oldies... you know about the records. peter paul and mary, loads of memories there!! I also have cat stevens cd. My meager collection beyond classical and cat stevens is only enya ( so relaxing.. labored to it with porter), about 10 church cd's i like one called thanksgiving that is byu choir. I love mormon tab ( how is that spelled??) choir. It sounds great when played on our TV because of the speakers and the base on it.

    wow this is rambly....

    Oh funny thing if i put a classical cd on porter gets out his drum and keyboard and plays along. He will tell me to put it on a fast or slow song. its really cute. and we also dance to classical and "interprit" the music. Its fun and excersize and kids love it.

    okay i am just going no where with this comment. i shouldnt be up trying to make sence anymore! goodnight