The ability to sing, and yes, to improvise, has been a treasure, and for me it's also something I grew up with. Music has just always been a big part of my life. As I was reminded when, half an hour later, I was looking for a file on my computer and came across one titled "Essay on Music" from 2004. It was written like an email TO someone that I saved, but I no longer remember to whom, and anyway I thought I would share it more generally. It's about me in 2004, not me now, but these little glimpses of my past self are interesting.
a bit of an essay on Music...
You asked me a couple times this past weekend what music I like, and I never really answered. I was thinking about it this morning and thought I would type up those thoughts. It's not a simple subject, as my tastes in music are as diverse as my interests in everything else.
I was raised on a steady diet of Rush, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, The Doors, U2, Talking Heads, Yes, Aerosmith, Aretha Franklin, The Pointer Sisters, Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Mozart, The Beatles, Paul Simon, Paul Winter, Fleetwood Mac, ZZ Top, Janis Joplin, Lena Horne, Billy Holiday, and of course Bill Cosby, included because the music of laughter is one I most miss in the seasons when it is rare, and we had more of his albums in the house than we had of any other single artist.
Oldies such as are compiled in the soundtracks to The Big Chill, Stand By Me, and Good Morning Vietnam were also popular around the house and are still favorites of mine. When I say steady diet, I mean it - there is rarely an occasion or meal when the family gathers together when there is not music on, and often loudly; we might use Aerosmith to wake the house during the holidays, for example. Every birthday or other occasion sees gifts of music; there is a lot more jazz and classical material than I have suggested so far, and other material harder to classify, like Blue Man Group.
In my family, all of us sing and all of us dance. I danced a hundred times to the soundtracks of Footloose, Fame, and Flashdance, to Michael and Janet Jackson, Depeche Mode, and other artists named above. WHAM, Billy Joel, Phil Collins, Pat Benatar, and Huey Louis and the News also come to mind. I enjoy Musical soundtracks, and can sing a lot of songs from many of them. Favorites include Chess, Blues in the Night, Les Miserables, Free to Be You and Me, The Sound of Music, and Peter Pan (I don't know that much about taking care of kids, but I can sing to them). My dad played self-taught piano of the boogy-woogy and jazz varieties, and rock and roll on the drums. My feet could keep up with any rhythm, more facile than my hands even, sometimes. I never got that far learning any other instrument than my own body and voice.
As I headed into college, I further developed tastes for Queen, They Might Be Giants, REM, Sarah Vaughan, Indigo Girls, Tori Amos and Loreena McKennit, Santana, Cake, Chopin, and others. I learned to sing Rachmaninoff and several bawdy ballads, and continued to be touched by the soundtrack of The Color Purple. I really like driving to the soundtrack of The Matrix.
I have become particularly fond of certain selections by Joan Osbourne, Greg Brown, Randy Newman, Boiled in Lead, and The Proclaimers, and I appreciate the musical taste of Quentin Tarantino. Steven Brust did a song called "Neil Gaiman Pastiche # 27" that I like a lot...
Currently, I most commonly dance to Pat Benatar, Shania Twain, Music from Moulin Rouge, and Pink. I think you might like some tracks from Pink: Try This. I was pleased to discover that Right Said Fred: Up and Shania Twain: Up! are both sexy, danceable albums. Seems appropriate, what with nearly the same name and all.
When I try to think of a favorite, Paul Simon comes to mind. I never got into Simon and Garfunkel but rather prefer his solo albums, especially Still Crazy After All These Years, and Graceland. Simon probably laid down the base of whatever spirituality I have, since I was raised by two slightly pagan agnostics, and he gave me some of the language with which I relate to love. I once used "Goodbye" to split up with my boyfriend. He's really been very influential on me...
This is the story of how we begin to remember.
This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein.
This is the dream of falling and calling your name out --
These are the roots of rhythm, and the roots of rhythm remain.