Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Music meme time!

Eric called on me to respond to this musical baton blog thing that seems to be going around like the flu. The albums came to me quickly, but the songs required a greater effort. At one point I almost included Damn Yankees' "High Enough," as an example of my high school hair metal power ballad days, but realized that even though I really like that song, it's far too cheesy to be included on the list. I'm happy with my selections.

Total size of music files on my computer: 25 GB, 4258 songs. That's on my iRiver MP3 player, but it's roughly a mirror image of the music on my home PC. That includes most of my own CD collection, about twenty of Liz's CDs, some CDs I've ripped from my Dad's extensive collection, and a bunch of podcasts. They're mostly MP3 files, but a few years ago I went through a brief phase of ripping albums in Ogg Vorbis format. Since Ogg files won't play on an iPod, that precluded my purchasing one, and that's one of the reasons I got the iRiver instead. That, and I hate iTunes.

The last CD I bought was: I came back from Oregon with 10 or 11 used (but new to me) CDs, all of them classical.
Bruckner, Symphonies 3, 4, 5 and 8
Mahler, Symphony No. 5
Mozart, Flute Concertos
Bach, organ music
Leonard Bernstein, Orchestral suites from West Side Story, On the Town, and Fancy Free.
Also, Liz picked up Johnny Cash's Live at San Quentin to add to our growing Cash collection.

Song playing right now on my iFruit (that's iRiver to you): the latest Bandana Blues podcast. It's one of several blues podcasts I listen to each week. This one is a joint production between a guy here in the US and another one in the Netherlands, with a great assortment of old and new blues music.

Top five albums:

Led Zeppelin, II
Guns N' Roses, Appetite for Destruction
Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited
The Beatles, Revolver
The Who, Tommy

Five songs that mean a lot to me:

"Faithfully" - Journey
This song was the theme for my senior prom in 1992. I went to the prom with Carol, who has been one of my best friends for many years. The song is a reminder of that time in my life, and of her. While the lyrics don't represent the relationship she and I have had over the years, I think it's a great love song anyway. And I wish I could play it on the piano.

"Desolation Row" - Bob Dylan
Liz and I probably own a dozen Dylan albums, including live concerts, and I could easily choose any song from any album for this list. But "Desolation Row" is my favorite track from Highway 61 Revisited, and it's just a beautiful song, lyrically and musically. I wasn't always a Bob Dylan fan, but listening to this song convinced me. Dylan's skills with the harmonica are the perfect embellishment, and the solo here reminds me of an argument Liz and I had with her aunt and uncle on our trip to Oregon in 2000. We were driving from Portland to Seattle, listening to "Desolation Row" on the Live Bootleg 1966 album, and Liz and I argued that Dylan is one of the greatest harmonica players ever. I think her aunt and uncle disagreed, but I can't remember who they said was better.

"The Scientist" - Coldplay
Last fall, I decided to give Coldplay a try. James and Jess had raved about how great the band was, and I knew Liz liked a few of their songs. I only knew one Coldplay song at the time, and I didn't even know its name. So I tracked down A Rush of Blood to the Head and listened to it on the way to work one morning. When "The Scientist" started up, with its simple melody and piano chords, I couldn't believe how much I loved it. I'd never heard anything like it that I'd enjoyed that much. I've since become a big fan of their music, and I would have bought their new album on Tuesday except for some work issues that kept me from getting out at lunch. I'm definitely buying it this week.
By the way, the song I knew turned out to be "Clocks," which is also a great track, though not quite as excellent as "The Scientist."

"Good Morning, Good Morning" - The Beatles
When I was in college, I used to go to my father's office in the medical school late at night to study. Usually I was alone, but sometimes Anthony, one of the students who worked for my dad and a good friend of mine, would also be there studying. Whenever we were there at the same time, we didn't get much work done; instead, we'd talk about girls, classes, and music (he was the pianist for the choir and we'd performed together several times). One night we were listening to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Anthony got incredibly excited about the meter changes and the brass parts in "Good Morning, Good Morning." We played it a few times, marveling at the sheer fun of the song. I remember him listening, laughing, and making me laugh along with him. I think about the two of us hanging out, having fun and putting off work. Definitely good times.

"Sinfonia" from Cantata No. 29 - J.S. Bach, Switched-on Bach (Wendy Carlos)
My parents are both musicians and from an early age my brother and I were exposed to classical music. We would listen to it in the car on road trips and at home on weekends -- Pittsburgh FM station WQED's "Listener's Choice" program was a fixture of our Saturday afternoons. But I didn't really get into classical music until my father introduced me to Switched-On Bach, Wendy Carlos' Moog-synthesized versions of some of Bach's works. I nearly wore out the vinyl edition of the album, and later the cassette tape copy I made of the album. This piece is the first track on the album and a joyful explosion of music that's unmistakably Bach yet unusual by its electronic sound. It might be the one work that turned me on to classical music forever. It reminds me of an age when I was discovering composers and classic works, hearing fantastic old music for the first time. Every once in a while, I'll hear an unfamiliar piece by one of my favorite composers and I'll feel that excitement again. It makes me feel young.

Recent discoveries?
I hear all sorts of new music through podcasts, but one band stands out: WIYOS, an old-time blues/folk/ragtime-sort of band I heard on Dave Raven's Raven 'n' Blues podcast a few months ago. Also, Liz's uncle is a big fan of Chris Knight, and played a few of his songs for us. The music was cool: a more countrified version of early Bruce Springsteen, but the songs on the album were so depressing that they made Nebraska sound like a collection of party anthems.

Who's next?


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