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May 6, 2008

My History with Music

Music has always been a large part of my life. Growing up a game my family would always play together driving in the car was name that tune. The object was to be the first to name the title and artist of the song playing. My Dad refused to listen to anything other than oldies so he had the clear advantage, but today my brothers and I usually have him beat, his memory seems to be a tad slower these days.

The radio was huge in elementary school. My friends and I had our favorite radio station, 95.9 KISS FM. It played all the popular songs and at times songs that I was embarrassed to listen to with my Mom because I knew the content was not appropriate. But still listening to Bitch, by Alanis Morissette was much more enjoyable than listener to her favorite stating 94.3 Light Rock.

In fourth grade I began my first instrument, the violin. I loved the violin; I practiced often and was quite good. But when the opportunity arose in sixth grade to join band I quit the violin and started a new brass instrument. Originally I wanted to play the saxophone, but when it was my turn to try out the variety of mouth pieces for all the different instruments with my future instructor, she decided saxophone was not right for me. Instead she suggested the baritone. I played the baritone through eighth grade, but once I entered high school I decided to give it a rest and take art classes instead.

From high school on music became a self-guided exploration. I was determined to expose myself to as much as possible because I enjoyed it so much. I would go to the majority of the school choir concerts, I never missed a musical, I saw a few band performances, and one orchestra concert. Besides the school-based music I began attending concerts, which quickly became one of my favorite things to do.

Now that I’m living in a larger city I make an effort to support local bands. There’s something about the possibility of knowing that a small band you support may make it in the industry some day. I especially enjoy going to shows are Varsity Theater. It’s by far the coolest venue I’ve ever been to.

I hope my love for music never ends. The day I received my iPod for Christmas began and obsession. I listen to a ridiculous amount of music in a day; while I walk, run, bike, study, relax, read, and write, I’m usually listening to music. As odd as it may sound, music is a near and dear friend to me, I can play different artists to compliment different moods and life experiences. I love the thrill in discovering a new song and band, which is something that theoretically will never end!

on Band Names

I always wonder what goes into coming up with a band name. How much time do bands spend thinking about names, do they take it seriously or lightly? Is a name something that is stumbled upon or is a significant amount of time spent coming up with it? I realize the process is most likely different for each band, but I do figure there are some similarities in the process.

When I was in high school two of my friends started a band and I distinctly remember their struggle to come up with a name. They asked their friends for suggestions and looked to them for inspiration. After nearly two weeks of deliberation they decided on the name, Left at Atlantic. Random to the public but those who knew them well would understand, which is often the sign of a good name. They lived in the same neighborhood and by taking a left on Atlantic Street you could get to each of their houses.

There are many types of band names. Many base the name after the lead singer; Dave Matthews Band, Steve Miller Band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and Simon and Garfunkel. Others go by their names, but not their legal names, they change them to be more marketable, which I have never quite understood, for example Shania Twain, Faith Hill, and John Legend to name a few. Other bands choose to name themselves after objects for seemingly no reason other than the fact that it’s random, like the Super Furry Animals, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Shins, and Barenaked Ladies. And lastly the name which is nearly impossible to pronounce the first time and is remembered for its individuality; Bjork, Imogen Heap, Jamiroquai, and Matisyahu.

The name of your band is extremely important. If you gain any popularity it becomes a second identity, and you will possibly forever be remembered by that name. I wish each artist would give a little background on where or how they came up with their name; I feel they would be stories filled with randomness, drugs, and adventure.

Van Morrison, why so unknown?

I used to put Van Morrison in the same musical category as Van Halen and Metalica. I thought, maybe because of the similarity in the first name, that Van Morrison and Van Halen had a similar sound. I had not listened to Van Morrison’s music before last spring, or at least did not knowingly, and that was because I was under the (extremely false) impression that he played heavy metal music.

When I was hanging out in my friend Andy’s dorm room last spring my perception of him did a complete three sixty. We were just chilling, smoking a hookah, and listening to music when Bright Side of the Road began to play. I was instantly excited about the song and after learning it was sung by Van Morrison I went home and downloaded his greatest hits album. I was completely wrong about Van Morrison, his music is anything but heavy metal, in fact in the year since I was first introduced to Moondance and Brown Eyed Girl as songs performed by Van Morrison, I have fallen in love with him and his music.

His songs are mostly upbeat, full of energy, and extremely catchy. I love to sing them while I drive, while I shower, and while at parties. I’ve found that many people, like I did, know the music of Van Morrison but few actually know the tracks are by him or who he is. How is it possible to have so many successful hits, so many well known songs, but not be well known? He deserves all the credit in the world because he never fails to take my sour moods and reverse them.

Universality of Music

Music seems to be one of the only universal languages on this planet. People of all walks of life, those living in the U.S., third world countries, indigenous tribes, the poor, rich, moderate, the cocky, humble, superficial, people with stable families, people living on the streets, people with three jobs, people with disabilities, healers, law enforcers, and advocates, they all enjoy music.

Music has the unique ability to be seen in every aspect of life. One can find a beat or rhythm in the sound of high heels hitting cement, rain drops hitting a window, the creak in wood floor boards, the spring of a mattress, the sound of an automobile blinker, the person next to you chewing their gum, even the buzz of a fly in your ear. I think this is what makes music so special and desirable. People are constantly surrounded by it and inspired by the natural beat and rhythm of life.

Music is a huge cultural indicator, it seems each culture has certain distinct qualities in the sound of their music, and a great musician has the ability to bring these characteristics to life. It’s undeniable that there is a noticeable difference between an authentic mariachi band and the sound of French street band. The difference between Jamaican reggae and the sound of a traditional Moroccan bongo player is blatantly apparent.
Each country, and specific cultures within each country, make their name for themselves through music. In the United States for example the South is seen as the creators of jazz. New Orleans made a name for the Southern states through the success of the freeness and improve-based jazz. In the part of the country surrounding Kentucky and Tennessee country music is the focus. The music was originally based around the fiddle and country twang. The arguable most relatable lyrics depict rural life, a life that the majority of Americans could relate to until recent years. And lastly the creation of hip hop in the inter-city streets of Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, and New York City is one of the more amazing stories behind a genre. Hip Hop was not created in a specific locale of the country; instead it was created out of similar life situations. It focuses on the struggles of urban life through quick lyrics, catchy rhymes, and a time signature complimenting the natural beat of the heart.

Without music it is possible that there would be little common ground cross-culturally. Music is a common area of interest in people, it aids in understanding others, and increasing the desire to get to know others.