Making Music Matter - part two
The adage, “You Are What You Do,” can apply to your hobbies as well as your moral choices. You say you like music? You say music used to be an important component of your life before it gave way to reality TV, the NCAA tournament and your kids’ soccer games? Well then, every once in a while, why not get together with some friends to discuss music?
For the past two years I’ve been blessed to do exactly this with some fellow music geeks…er…music lovers…up in the Milwaukee area around four times a year. Some variation of Kevin, Aaron, Scott, John, Pete and I congregate in Kevin’s “Wall of Sound” basement to play and discuss music, often bands I’ve never heard of before, or bands I’d forgotten about, or bands whose deep cuts I’d never explored. The experience can be enlightening, infuriating, and life-affirming. But it’s never boring.
We often approach the night with a theme, which helps, because themes force us to go beyond the obvious. Last month, our theme was “Songs under three minutes or over seven minutes.” I went further and added my own personal rules: no songs from the 60s, no Yes, no Rush, no Genesis, no Zeppelin and no CDs – vinyl only. What resulted was a fantastic mix of songs I’d never even listened to before, even those from my own collection. Obscure tracks by Madness, Big Country, Fleetwood Mac, Robert Plant, Wheezer, Bowie, Wilco, Duran Duran, Tanita Tikarum, and much more, made our list that night. I walked away with dozens of songs and bands to reexamine.
Of course, you don't have to see friends in person these days to discuss music. I've got another set of buddies who share music and opinions back and forth each week via email. Again, it's an experience that never fails to spark an interesting viewpoint, even when the music fails to grab your gut.
If you don’t have friends that you can truly discuss music with, you should probably find some new friends. But here’s an alternative: listen to others discuss music.
Chicago is blessed to be the home of a terrific radio show about music, Sound Opinions, hosted by columnists Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot, and NPR stations nationwide have picked up this syndicated show. Sure, DeRogatis and Kot’s tastes may be wildly different from your own (they often talk about bands I have absolutely no interest in), but the hosts are so obviously in love with music that it’s hard not to respect them even when they make a recommendation that's out of left field. Their show also subscribes to the occasional theme and regularly highlights new releases that you might not otherwise have exposure to.
This week’s Sound Opinions show examines those bands that produced not one, not two, not three, but four knockout albums in succession, a rare feet they coin “Musical Grand Slams” It’s fun topic that could stir debate among music lovers for weeks on end. Before they started their list, the first artist that popped into my head was Stevie Wonder. Bingo - the first artist featured on the radio program was Stevie Wonder. A no-brainer. Some of the other artists they mentioned made no sense to me. Some I thought of would undoubtedly make no sense to them.
But that’s what makes it fun.
Want to make music matter again? Start talking about it.