Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Music Made Me - An Interlude

In this musical timeline we have now arrived at the end of middle school and are about to embark on the journey that is high school. This seems like a good time to stop for a moment and take stock of where we are.


When I started this project I didn't think the individual memories would keep up. I mean, yes, as time marches forward my memories should be clearer so it follows that I would be able to remember more not less. But I guess I had expected my relationship to music to transition away from these little vignettes and towards rote refinement of musical tastes. Turns out no, the more I think about all of this, the more individual stories shake out. I had expected a format change by now, where there would be more songs and less text, but it just doesn't look like that's going to happen anytime soon. This is a good thing.


In looking back at my early music exposure it's interesting to see how the sources of influence change. In the beginning I'm exposed to music by my parents and by media (movies and TV). As my older brother pioneers before me he starts to turn into a strong influence. Then I start making friends and am exposed to the music from their own music journey, often very different from my own.

There's one thing missing here, and that's radio. At the point where we are in the story right now I'm not really listening to the radio yet. That's about to change, which will create some interesting waves.

But one thing seems to be true throughout all the years: I experience new music in bursts in response to social influences. In other words, I find music through friends, and I associate memories of specific friends with specific music.

A number of you have approached me and commented on this series. I'm doing this project for myself, but it's always good to see others enjoying it. I love hearing the memories and stories that this unearths in all of you. Please feel welcome to comment and share. The further I get in the more I realize that my journey would not be the same without the friends around me.


So, where are we in that journey? You'll notice that I have a strong grunge/alternative base. This genre was a rejection of overblown glam rock, and a softening of punk and metal. All of that has roots in what we call classic rock (basically hard rock and blues rock). At this age I have no concept of any of this. So I'm listening to a movement that's a response to something I know nothing about, which is itself a response to something else I know nothing about. If I grew up in any other time I'm sure I'd be similarly clueless.

Some people are snobbish about their music. They're doing it wrong. I'm not going to say that there isn't bad music out there, because there totally is. But in the large music is entirely too personal to be judged against a universal bar. So much of how we relate to music is defined by our personal history, and each person's history is different. I've been telling you about my story with some idea that it will contextualize who I am. But who knows if that translates.

Forming Tastes

In the story my tastes are beginning to form and individualize. I'm starting to get more cerebral about my music. This is a helpful thing at this time, but it will be something that I partially reject later. I have a tendency to overthink, and am often better served by simplicity.

One thing that's becoming more important in this tale is the guitar. I'm starting to take playing it seriously. In middle school it's a thing I dabble with; in high school it becomes part of my identity. Songs that work well with my guitar love will start to get extra attention.

You may have realized that there are plenty of B-side tracks on these lists when there are perfectly reasonable hits on the same album. At least for me, being a chart-topper has no correlation to the ability to form a powerful memory. I'm also just more of a B-side type person. These tracks are generally less obvious and more personal. They require some coaxing to come out of their shell. Like me.

Dirty Laundry

As we progress into high school some of these memories are going to become more personal… and not just for me. I can't have a discussion about music without also talking about the ups and downs of friendships and relationships. From my perspective this is all in the past and easy to laugh at now. Others may not feel that way. I'm going to write it all anyway. I mean, what's the point if I skip over the most poignant memories?


I'm about to head out on vacation, so sadly the series will be on pause for a least a week. When I return we'll jump right into my Freshman year...

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