lyef & thymes

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Oh my Sweet Carolina

When I was a young lad living in Nova Scotia, I was brought up on Country Radio. At the age of seven I would have told you that Rita McNeil was my favorite. Then in school I discovered Micheal Jackson, and he became my favorite artist.

When I moved to Toronto I was introduced to so many options in music that I had never encountered before. There was MuchMusic, Q107, so many songs.

By the age of 13 Guns N Roses were my favorite, and that influenced my music choice for a long while. By 17 my entire music collection was metal and Alternative. I had about 60 CDs at that time, and I have long abandoned all of them. Well, actually all but two. Gandharvas and Made have survived in my music collection.

But like so many other phases of music appreciation, my love of heavy metal music did not last. Interestingly enough, my favorite style of music now (at 27 years old) is folk music. I have often wondered how I came to enjoy folk, which is antithetical to heavy metal.

Some of my favorites today are Patty Griffin, Ryan Adams, Martin Sexton, and folks like these who sing stories mostly. They do so with great skill and tremendous emotion, but ultimately the songs are stories. Bruce Springsteen does this sort of thing, in case you are unfamiliar with what I am talking about. Think about his song Glory Days. He is just singing about running into old friends and taking them out for a few drinks. He's singing a song that could be YOUR song, you know?

So here is a brief thesis about the transition of musical tastes in my life. I do not believe that it will translate perfectly into everyone's experience, as tastes vary from person to person. But here is what I think about my own personal journey of music.

In my early years, when I still lived in Nova Scotia, up till the age of 10 or so, life was imaginative, easy, and all around me was nature, fresh salt air, and discovery after discovery of interesting, but ultimately unimportant things (like a squirel in the back yard or something). In this time I liked music with light airy melodies, and not a lot of complexity, slowly transitioning into liking Micheal Jackson, who was Pop music at it's pinnacle. Again, unimportant lyrics, light ideas, with sweet Poppy melodies.

Then I moved to Toronto, and simultaneously began to grow into my adolescent years. Life became a bit louder, dirtier, more intense, more complex, angrier in a sense, and certainly darker. When I saw a music video for November Rain by Guns N Roses for the first time I knew that this was a style and message that spoke to me. I became a fan, and bought all their albums. I also began to listen to Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Alt.Rock station 102.1 The Edge.

My life in Toronto wasn't very good at first. I lived with my Mother, from whom I had grown estranged over the years of living apart from her. And I also lived with her new husband. Thinking about it now, I have a great deal of compassion for this man. He met a woman, loved her, married her, and then within months they had two children, 10 and 12 years old, to care for. This is not what he was expecting, and he certainly had no idea how to deal with it.

Accompanying the stress of moving into this situation, there was all of the natural stress and anxiety of becoming a teen-ager. I was from Nova Scotia, had no experience dealing with jerks in the classroom, and was much smarter than my class-mates. I didn't fit in too well. I made friends with the outcasts, and together we listened to dark, bitter music that fed our angst.

At this time I believed that I was fully developed as a person. I think that every teenager secretly believes this about themselves. They feel as though they have the world all sussed out, and that they way they perceive things will forever be the way they perceive them. So in evaluating my favorite bands at the time, I would have said that they would be my favorites forever. It's almost romantic, really.

But of course my tastes slowly did indeed begin to shift. I began playing guitar, and of course you can't just sit around at school playing your electric guitar, so I played accoustic guitar. This caused me to start reading Accoustic Guitar magazine, and garnered exposure to a lot of new artists I would never have heard of before. I picked up some Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, and mixed it in with my metal collection.

Now my collection is mostly accoustic folk type stuff. Interestingly enough, this is most comparable to my original tastes in music as a child. I think that music, like life, is most enjoyed when appreciated with childlike wonder and innocence. Take the Opera for example. A woman singing in Italian (which I do not understand) can convey the beauty of music to the trained and untrained ear alike, but I think that the untrained ear allows the music to flow in and out of them, while the trained ear is listening carefully for the intricacies of the music. I think that the trained ear has the capacity to enjoy music more deeply, but the sphere of music that they will enjoy in this way may be lessened, as music that is not technically excellent might offend their musical palatte. The innocent childlike listener will enjoy whatever comes their way.

Wow, this is getting long. More to come at a later date.

See ya!


At 9:57 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

a few points from a "trained" ear (more like an ear relatively advanced in training, but not there yet...):

I'll start with the most important one: I've found that being trained doesn't neccessarily mean my reactions and reception of the music has to change in anyway. All it means is that I can switch between recieving what is know as the "affect" of the music (like everyone else) or can listen more intently to explain how the composer brings about this affect because I know what to listen for. For example, I can say that a Beethoven Symphony movement is very exciting and triumphant, or I can say that he is using an ascending circle of fifths sequence as part of the Core in the Development of a Sonata form movement. It's not particularly better or worse reaction-it's just different if I choose to (or are required to for an assignment, which is more likely...)

As for taste in music, I find I'm at once disillusioned and attracted to complexity. It depends if the artist is trying to be complex or simple and ends up doing the reverse. Like Bach...


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