Sunday, January 26, 2014

You don't want me to make a playlist. No, really, you don't.
Back in November, when Kriss Morton and I first started talking about the Crosswind tour, she suggested -- among other things -- that I could put together a playlist for one guest post. I demurred. But the subject came up again later, and I finally had to confess that I didn't want to do a playlist because I haven't bought any new music, other than Irish trad, since 1983.

That might be a slight exaggeration. I mean, there's the odd new Christmas CD (Chicago, Hall & Oates, and Jethro Tull, as well as some rockin' Renaissance tunes). I picked up Raul Malo's "Today" because a friend was really, really into him (hi, Kim!) and I liked that I could almost understand the songs that are in Spanish, and could sing along with the help of the liner notes. A couple of guys from Czech class gave me a copy of a Vlasta Horvath CD, which I liked so much that I searched the intarwebz to find the lyrics to the songs in Czech so I could sing along. (I even made an attempt to translate them; the less said about the result of that exercise, the better.) Another friend once gave me a tape of gamelan music. And I bought "Sevilla" by Young & Rollins, which, it turns out, is classified as nuevo flamenco. That, together with CDs by Irish trad bands -- mainly the Chieftains, Lunasa, and Flook -- constitutes the sum total of my "new" music purchases for the past (oh gods!) thirty years. Virtually verything else I've bought has been a replacement for an album I once owned on vinyl.

I didn't set out to step so far away from popular music, honest. It just kind of happened.

The breakaway began in 1982, when I moved from WKEE-FM in Huntington, WV, to WGNT-AM crosstown. KEE was a top-40 station; 'GNT played country. This was when country was in its "Urban Cowboy" phase, and I just couldn't get into it. (Sorry, country music fans -- I like bluegrass, but not country.) We had a sister station that played album rock, but I can't listen to heavy metal for long without getting depressed.

From there, I moved to WTAR-AM in Norfolk, VA, which played oldies from the '50s and '60s; our sister station, WLTY-FM, played lite rock, but I'd long since gone off chirpy love songs due to too many bad relationships. Next stop was DC, where I eventually ended up at all-news WTOP; 'TOP's sister station, WASH-FM, also plays lite rock (see "chirpy love songs" above). So the bottom line is that from '82 on, I didn't like any of the music I was hearing at work.

And by then I had little kids, so we were listening to a lot of "Wee Sing" and Disney soundtracks at home. In their teens, one of my kids got into Eminem and the other got into Disturbed, neither of which were my thing. At the same time, they were both listening to soundtracks from Broadway shows -- "Rent" and "Wicked" in particular.

Our taste is nothing if not eclectic. But you can't make a playlist out of it.

What I'm listening to these days is Chicago -- their early stuff. I picked up a box set of their first two albums plus V and VI, and I've been playing them while I do my time on the elliptical machine. I had forgotten just how original and challenging their music was -- the rapid key changes, the unusual time signatures ("A Hit by Varese" is in 5/4) -- and how it requires active, almost participatory, listening. I can sink my teeth into it, the same way I can sink my teeth into singing along in Spanish or Czech.

If you've gotten this far and you're still looking for a playlist from me, here's what I suggest this week: "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon." Have a great week, everyone.

These moments of musical blogginess are brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

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