Sunday, August 01, 2004

Somehow I pictured him as a Run-DMC fan....

Will Duquette elaborates on his musical tastes, somehow tying it into iTunes, which I know nothing about. He separates out a bunch of categories or genres and discusses a bit of his listening habits therein. Always being one to follow a trend the very second I see one, I guess I'll steal his categories and do the same.

I'm not sure what Will means by citing numbers of tracks -- if this is "tracks available at iTunes", or "tracks Will owns", or what. I personally have purchased no music at all online; I'm a big fan of the compact disc and having a physical object on which my music is stored, so instead of track titles I'll give a rough estimate of the number of CDs I own in any category. For starters, I estimate my CD collection at around 700 CDs. (All of the music I have on my computer is stuff I've ripped from the CDs so I can listen while I write, and I don't do all that much ripping anyway, since I also own two portable CD players which I can plunk right next to the keyboard.)

Blues: Not off to a good start, I'm afraid. I own zero blues recordings. I never listen to the blues. And I'm not really sure why, because it isn't that I don't like the blues; far from it, actually. It's simply a musical genre which I don't seek out, because there are others I love more. (I do have to take slight exception to Will's statement that he doesn't listen to blues because he doesn't like being depressed. I never find the blues depressing -- well, almost never. I generally find that there's a playfulness in the blues, a sort of "We laugh so we don't cry" type of thing. But then, I could just as easily be in the wrong here, since I don't listen to the blues more than once or twice a year and that's on the radio. Speaking of which, WBFO -- Buffalo's NPR station -- does six hours of blues programming on Saturdays and Sundays, and they have a streaming webcast, for those interested in such things.)

Children's: I should get more kids' music, probably. Generally this purpose is filled by stuff from other genres, like Disney soundtracks, showtunes, lighter classical, et cetera. The Daughter also seems to enjoy Celtic music (she never complains on Saturday nights when I insist on listening to Thistle and Shamrock on NPR for two hours). I do need to get a VeggieTales CD or two one of these days, since she loves those guys and really, they're very funny. ("A great big squash just sat upon my hat!") Generally, though, I find that childrens' music tends to be a bit cloying and/or condescending; being borne pretty much of ignorance, though, I'm welcome to having this presupposition challenged.

ASIDE: The Daughter has always enjoyed singing. When we took her to a Christmas Eve worship service at church when she was just six months old, she hooted and howled her way through the hymns, loud as a bell. And in the last few months, she's really showing signs of a developing ear: she can match pitches correctly and once in a great while she'll actually harmonize, singing a third above whatever's playing. This development thrills me greatly.

Classical and Early Music: Regular readers of this blog know where I stand here. Classical is one of two genres that dominate my CD collection, tipping in at over 300 CDs alone. My classical tastes roughly start with the classical period (Haydn, Mozart, early Beethoven) and proceed forward, with a heavy dose of the Romantics. My Baroque tastes don't extend much beyond Bach and Handel (I can't abide Vivaldi), and I own no more than four or five "Early music" CDs that I pretty much dig out once in a great while for novelty's sake.

Over the last year or so, I've been branching out into Asian classical music, of which I have twenty or so CDs. Some of this stuff is light but beautiful; some of it serious and modernistic; all of it is fascinating.

(For those "uninitiated", the word "classical" is problematic. Strictly speaking, it defines a very specific time period -- roughly between the death of Bach in 1750 and the first performance of Beethoven's Third Symphony -- and thus, to refer to, say, Rachmaninov [mostly a twentieth century composer] as a "classical music" guy is wrong. But to explain this each and every time out gets really ponderous, and none of the oft-suggested alternatives to "classical music" really suffices, in my mind. So I call all of it classical music and resort to occasionally referring to the "music of the classical period" if I need to get that specific.)

Comedy/Novelty: A mere smattering here -- ten CDs or so. I love George Carlin and Bill Hicks, and own several CDs of each, but anyone familiar with these guys will understand why they get very little play in this household. I also own Monty Python Sings, which I can attest is a terrible CD to try to put in the portable player one takes on brisk walks. I also own some "Spoken Word" discs, in two boxed sets devoted to great speeches (one focused on Presidential addresses).

Country: Almost nothing. I have a single CD I burned of tracks I downloaded when I experimented with KaZaA for a couple of weeks (the guilt got to me, and I uninstalled the thing). I do own the most recent Dixie Chicks album (which I happened to buy two days before the whole controversy about them erupted), a Johnny Cash "greatest hits" CD that I adore, and two compilations of John Denver. (Don't laugh. John Denver rules.)

My father always listened to large amounts of country back when I was "in my youth", and while I openly mocked it, I silently enjoyed a great deal of it. (I suspect this to be true of the way many of us related to the things our parents loved.) I often mean to pick up some Willie Nelson (I openly admit really liking Willie Nelson), more Johnny Cash, some Waylon Jennings, some Ray Price, et cetera. Kenny Rogers. Early Oak Ridge Boys ("Y'all Come Back Saloon" is a great song.) I really don't care for a lot of this "Rockabilly" stuff nowadays, though -- real "country" music, to me, deals with Western tropes and the trials of rural living and the frontier and the like. You know, songs that start off like "Out in the West Texas town of El Paso".

Easy Listening: Hmmmmm. Not really sure what this is, anymore. Do the great old vocalists like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Bobby Darin, Jimmy Durante and the like qualify? If so, I have thirty or so CDs of this stuff, and I love it all -- there's truly great music-making there, and some of it is anything but "easy" listening. (There's nothing "easy" about Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely, and that's a fact.) But if we're talking about all that syrupy crap like "101 Strings" and Mantovani and the like, then I have none of it. (OK, I have one: a CD by Paul Mauriat, which I bought used because it has "Love Is Blue" on it, and that song fascinates me because it was used in exceedingly haunting fashion in an episode of Millennium.)

New Age/Electronic: Will doesn't list this category, but I do have a bit of it. Twenty or thirty CDs or so, at any rate. Enya and Tangerine Dream figure in here. (I used to be a big TD fan, and I still really dig their music, although I haven't bought a new CD of theirs in quite some time.) I like Techno on a limited basis, but I find too much of it overwhelming -- especially at the "Jet Liner Engine from ten feet away" decibel level that it seems to demand. And I might as well admit it here: I own four Yanni CDs. This dates from my college "New Age" phase, and I'm mostly willing to call Yanni a guilty pleasure -- except that I feel no guilt whatsoever about Live at the Acropolis, a CD whose totality greatly exceeds the sum of its parts, in my eyes. I genuinely believe there is some kind of greatness at work there.

Folk: I own a few CDs of Pete Seeger and the Weavers, and a gorgeous disc of A Tribute to Woody Guthrie, recorded at a Carnegie Hall concert in 1968. (And what a CD this is: performers include Arlo Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and narration by Will Geer [the Grandfather from The Waltons].) If we're defining "folk" as American folk, that's it.

But if "folk" is where Celtic music comes in, then my collection explodes. I have around a hundred or so CDs of Celtic music; this is a fascination of mine that has pretty much been in a "slow smolder" for years now, ever since I bought my first Chieftains disc in college. I love Celtic instrumental music, like that of the Chieftains; I love Celtic choral music, like that of Anuna; I love female vocalists like Kate Rusby and male vocalists like Dougie McLean. And I love the "local Celtic bar bands", like Buffalo's own Kilbrannan.

Jazz: Not much. I have about ten jazz CDs: a Chick Corea disc or two; Duke Ellington, a couple of Big Band compilations. I used to try to convince myself that I had a burning passion for jazz, but eventually I admitted that I just didn't have much of an ear for it. (I mean that literally. My efforts at improvisation in college were just horrible. I sucked, sucked, sucked at it, and I finally had to admit, about my junior year, that as far as my trumpet playing went, my model was far more Adolph Herseth than Maynard Ferguson.)

Christian: Zero. None. Nada. Ixnay. Bupkis. Nyet. Niente. Nein. I hate to sound judgmental here, but I had a college roommate who really got into this stuff, and I hated every single note of it that he ever played. I think there were actually nights that I got drunk just to get the Amy Grant out of my system. (In all honesty, I know that there's a lot of this "Contemporary Christian" stuff out there, and Sturgeon's Law would imply that some of it has to be good. I'm just going to have to remain ignorant about it, because I don't think I could withstand the effort of finding it.)

Soundtrack: Once again, regular readers will know where I stand here. Film music constitutes the other "heavy hitter" of my CD collection. At one point it might have actually exceeded classical in sheer numbers, but I'm certain that the pendulum swung back the other way over the last year or so, as my classical CD purchases increased again and my film music purchases decreased. I've said as much many times, but it always bears repeating: film music is, to me, a virtual sub-genre of classical music, and I've never bothered with the argument that it is somehow inferior by virtue of its formal constraints, because formal constraints abound in art, and in any event, the finest film composers find ways around those very formal constraints that are supposedly so limiting.

In terms of composers represented in my film music collection, John Williams takes the prize, with James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Miklos Rozsa and the others coming behind.

Rock (including pop generally): I don't have a very big rock collection -- a hundred CDs or so, including compilations. Favorites here include Pink Floyd (now there is a depressing band), Van Halen, Van Morrison, Sam Cooke, Jim Croce, and Elton John. In recent years I've finally started to regain an ability to listen to Billy Joel (the degree to which Joel was worshipped at my college simply staggered me). I admit a fondness for all that goofy 1980s rock, stuff like "Come On Eileen" and "Who Can That Be Now" and "99 Luftballons" and the like. I still like The Hooters a lot. I never got much into the "alt-rock" stuff of the 90s; I don't own a single Nirvana album, and while I do own two REM CDs, I almost never play them. Lately though -- and I'm talking in the last six months or so -- I'm noticing some of that stuff again in various pop-cultural settings, and I'm sort of liking it. File that away for future reference, I suppose.

And there we have it. Maybe someday I'll do the same thing for my book collection. (Of course, that post would take hours to write.)

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