Learning a New Language: Music

I’ve been pondering this renaissance of music in my life. Why has it taken this new twist I never anticipated despite music having been crucial in my childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and adulthood.

From Whence I Came

My mom went to rock concerts when I was young. I remember her seeing the Rolling Stones, Jethro Tull, and Pink Floyd before I was a teenager. I used to ask her when she was going to grow up and she said, “Never!” I was embarrassed by my mom acting like a teenager, but my friends all thought she was the cool mom.

When I started going to concerts, I began to see the appeal, but it still freaked me out the time I ran into my mom at an AC/DC concert. She was high; I was not. (I also ran into her at Rocky Horror Picture Show one midnight. I was mortified; she laughed.)

Through the years, she has stayed current with musical styles and groups, up to and including “gangsta rap.” Tupac is her hero.

As I traverse this new path, I’m finding an understanding of my 80+-year old mom and her musical spirit.

My Own Wanderings

Besides loving music growing up, I played the violin for two years when I was in 4th and 5th grade, then flute from 6th through 12th grade. I was in marching band and symphonic band and went to endless jazz and amateur rock concerts. I think Maynard Ferguson was one of the coolest guys around and Buddy Rich one of the crudest, but he could play the hell out of the drums. Happily, I got to see them both live and up close.

And Here I Am Now

Now I’m on the downhill slide and suddenly I am learning about the nuances of rock music.

  • Learning about guitars, how they are made, what makes each guitar sound a particular way that is tailored to each guitarist and what they hear in their heads.
Red Special
Brian May’s Red Special with X-ray.
  • Watching drum solos by a variety of drummers to determine the differences in sound between the toms, the kick drums, the wide variety of cymbals and endless variety of all the sounds and uses in pieces of music. (And I swear to you, I am watching videos just like this one below.)
  • Listening to the words in music I’ve listened to for decades as if it was the first time, deciphering their meaning from the perspective of a crone with a lifetime of experiences behind me.

I work hard (he works hard) every day of my life
I work ’til I ache my bones
At the end (at the end of the day)
I take home my hard earned pay (goes home)
All on my own (goes home on his own)
I get down (down) on my knees (knees)
And I start to pray (praise the Lord)
‘Til the tears run down from my eyes
Lord, somebody (somebody), ooh, somebody
(Please) can anybody find me somebody to love?

from “Somebody to Love” – written by Freddie Mercury

  • Analyzing concert videos from the late 60s to the present, trying to figure out what makes the concert interesting. How does the band support the lead singer? How do they switch off duties and why? Do pyrotechnics make a difference in the audience’s enjoyment? Watching where each musician is placed on the stage and how they move around during a song and pondering why they do what they do when they do it.

Where Am I Going?

I know there is a world more to learn and understand the education is endless, much as acquiring a new language never ends.

I don’t know where this is going to go or will end up, but the journey sure is fascinating.

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