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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

This Is Your Music, Our Culture (Or Why The X-Files' Original Tagline Will Doom Us All)

Amorica, The Dreaming, Utrenja

Why do we like the music we do?

How do we find out about new music?

In my experience growing up, the musicians and albums pivotal in shaping my musical taste were usually recommendations from trusted individuals. I think we're rarely bold enough to try totally new things without someone suggesting (sometimes insisting) we do it.

We like change to be slow.

I recorded the above three albums with my iRecord today, and I was thinking about how we as individuals assimilate new pieces of our collective culture.


"Amorica" (Come and Save Me)

The Black Crowes' album is my wife's favorite album by her favorite band as a teenager. I got this copy from the lady who traded me for a painting of Van Halen. It's on white vinyl. Very cool.

Before my wife had me listen to the Crowes, I only knew the songs like "Remedy" that were played on the radio. I didn't know they played such kickass southern blues rock. I loved The Allman Brothers, and The Outlaws' "Green Grass & High Tides" was one of my favorite rock jams, but my musical collection had never veered into the 90's bands' take on southern rock. It was out of my element, especially as I had gotten more into jazz, industrial metal, and ambient electronica (read: intellectual music).

I certainly wouldn't have thought to listen to their albums on my own, but my wife had already done the research, as it were, and I opened up to a whole new group of music. She could tell me this was her favorite and I trusted her judgement.

"The Dreaming" (I Love Life)

Kate Bush was discovered by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and also sang backing vocals on Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up". I hadn't heard of her until I was in high school and my friend Michael played this album for me.

I was very picky about my music then, focussing on the prog rock I knew like Genesis and Pink Floyd, and the psychedelic and classic rock I was discovering gradually on my own by spending hours in used record stores. I also hesitated to listen to female vocalists at the time. Yet, Michael was the guy who'd figured out the second album to play over "The Wizard of Oz". And he'd introduced me to Jefferson Airplane's "After Bathing at Baxter's", my favorite album to this day.

So I listened. It was weird, but I gave it a chance because of who was playing it. I wouldn't have even listened to it at all if I'd seen it at a used record store, much less gave it enough time to grow on me. She's amazing though, very unique voice and musical sensibility.

Again, my friend had done the hard part of finding and realizing that, hey, this music was worth a listen. I trusted that Michael wouldn't play me crap, especially because he credits me for introducing him to Genesis, Peter Gabriel and all of prog rock in the first place.

"Penderecki: Utrenja, The Entombment of Christ" (I will praise thy passion)

In high school, I was a geek, proudly. Physics was my favorite subject. I even went during lunch to learn stuff Mr. Layton didn't teach in class. He had the most awesome sound system in his room with huge speakers up against the ceiling in racks he'd built. One lunch he told the group of us geeks that he wanted to play us some music.

Polish avant-garde classical composer, Krysztof Penderecki, wrote the music that would later be used as the soundtrack to "The Shining". Yeah, that music. This was similar: a wall of atonal sounds produced by an orchestra, chorus, and operatic vocalists. If you weren't specifically listening to it, you'd force whoever was to turn it off. It's an assault of sound. Beautiful painful passion.

I rarely ventured into the classical section, but this one album got me into all things modern classical. Just incredible piece of work. It vastly broadened my musical horizons. All because I trusted my teacher.


Trust seems to be the uniting factor. I was open to it and I personally trusted the individuals sharing the new music with me. They knew, so while it was new to me I wasn't scared.

"Trust No One" will lead to the breakdown of society. Trust is the key to keeping humanity afloat and culture intact.

I know because it's a prerequisite to love. Agreed?


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