Friday, January 07, 2011

The Ages and Stages of Music

We're a musical household. Any time we're home, whether lounging around reading, cooking dinner, doing laundry or dishes, or disciplining children, there is music playing.

Some of us (me) are more intent on having background music than others and usually end up picking the music. If it's up to me, it ends up being a shuffling of Elvis Costello, Jack Johnson, David Bowie and the Rolling Stones or, if the mood is different, Billie Holiday, Oscar Peterson, Dean Martin and Lester Young. Either way, Kristy and Andria will listen to it and rarely complain out loud. The kids have no choice.

In the interest of fairness, however, I decided some time back to create a Pandora station with the top picks from each of us to share so it could be accessed from any of our phones or computers.

With a third leaning towards Dylan, Springsteen, Prince and Lyle Lovett; a third interested in Garrison Starr, Nick Drake, Coldplay and Al Green; and a third of Black Crowes, Paul Simon, U2 and Velvet Underground, I thought we'd have a pretty interesting mix, a radio station made just for us.

I put it all together and took it live. It was awful. I don't think I even made it through a sink full of dirty dishes before I had to stop, dry my hands and delete the whole damn thing. I can't even remember what songs it threw out at us, but I didn't care for them, any of them.

We can tolerate, even enjoy each others music when we get to pick the artists, songs and albums, but Pandora should stay out of our business. And now we've got another coming of age with his own music tastes. C used Christmas money to buy himself an iPod Touch and, having turned 13 a couple of days ago, he's been given album downloads and an iTunes gift card. I helped him set up his own iTunes library and store account.

The first album C ripped from our household's collaborative CD collection was Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison (a great choice). After that, I had  him go through my iTunes library (some 2,439 songs) and make a list of what he was interested in so I could copy it over to his account. His list included all of the Jack Johnson because Jack sings about the sea and C is my son, and I can't help but think a part of him would rather be on the bow of a sailboat, watching the whitecaps disappear beneath the hull and racing a pair of playful dolphins. He picked out some Beatles (though no Stones, which concerns me), Spoon, Louis Prima, Coltrane, Cory Branan and the Beastie Boys. I chose Costello's My Aim Is True because he lives under my roof.

He also had "Nightrain" off of Appetite for Destruction. I asked him about that and he said they'd played it in band. C plays alto sax with his school's concert band. I laughed at him and told him they probably played the Duke Ellington/Jimmy Forrester composition, "Night Train."

It's all a learning process, though, and one not done so much with the head as with the heart and gut. I'm interested to see where his musical tastes lie and where this explorations will take him. He perused the iTunes Store today with his store credit but he said, "I couldn't find anything." And yet, they have all. the. songs.

It takes time, I know. When I was his age, it was 1983 and I was blaring Def Leppard's Pyromania, Quiet Riot's Metal Health and Prince's 1999 through my jam box.

Only time will tell what he clings to and what tunes end up coming from underneath his door or, Lord help us, mixed into our home Pandora station.