What I Have to Say About Music

Or, how a young man was warped by endless exposure to college radio

When I was a kid I really couldn’t make up my mind about music. Like a lot of kids, I was a knee-jerk nonconformist and as such couldn’t possibly mellow out enough to admit that I liked the stuff that my friends were listening to. No, I had to be different (even though I didn’t viscerally realize what a paradox nonconformity was). So I vehemently pronounced my fondness for European classical music while all my friends were rocking out to the Led Zeppelin and Earth, Wind and Fire. I was determined to like a kind of music my friends would hate.

It was then that I discovered punk and the new wave. Initially my reaction was negative but, once I discovered that most of the kids I knew hated it, I just had to like it. Silly, huh? I became one on those irritating legions of kids who scoffed at anything they put on MTV. Kids have a hard time being relaxed about stuff. It’s probably because they don’t really know what their opinions should be so, they grab any fleeting thing and immediately, and loudly, deify it. I was like that. Sometimes I still am.

The KCMU promotional sticker. I first got this way back in the late 1980s.I was lucky to live in a town where they had this excellent radio station that played all the stuff that I wanted to hear. They played all the stuff that other stations wouldn’t touch–hard core thrash, hip hop, dub, ska, power pop, etc. I made it through university and the Reagan years by listening to this station. I still listen to this station. Despite a few close calls and some controversy it has remained true to its roots. I am watching this station closely to make certain Paul Allen doesn’t pervert it into a vehicle to buy respect for his silly museum.

I didn’t buy a lot of vinyl back then mostly because I couldn’t afford to (I saved everything to pay for school.). Besides, one of the central ideas of punk was that music was temporary. Why buy a record when you would get sick of it in a few months anyway? As such I didn’t really participate in the CD revolution until well into the nineties. I didn’t even have a stereo set. I didn’t start buying music CDs until I bought a computer that could play them. Now they have my favorite station on streaming live on the Internet. That means no matter where I go in the world I’ll always have it to listen to and share with friends!

Anyway now that I am an acerbic geezer, I am very pleased that my musical tastes are still eclectic and maybe even hip. The Music of Superheroes

What do you think is rousing stuff? Ever since discovering the stuff back in the middle of the Eighties, I’ve always loved the South African musical genre labled “township jive.” Actually this label is used to lump together several things: kwela, tsonga, shangaan, mbaqanga, maskanda and others. Basically you recognize township jive when you hear it. It has fast, agressive bass beat with a sort of loping melody. It often begins with a intentional “tuning up sound” often on electric guitar, violin or saxophone which then launches into a dense, driving rhythmic melody. The tunes or short and fast or long and fast. Apparently SA DJs don’t believe in the three minute standard for pop songs. The best stuff has lots of non-traditional (by Western standards) instruments. Violins, accordians, concertinas, pennywhistles and horn sections.

Actually most of the music pouring out of Africa these days is worlds better than most of the stuff here in the States. I don’t know, music sounds better to me when I don’t understand the lyrics.

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