I originally wrote this on my Last.fm journal, but Last.fm recently redesigned its site and gutted most of its functionality, including journals. So I’m now migrating my most important journal articles to this site. This article is incomplete but still informative up to the point it stops. I do hope to continue it sometime. Here is a link to this article on Last.fm
As a child, the first kind of music I liked was classical music. For me, music was something to have a direct experience with. Classical music spoke directly to me. It wasn’t about the lyrics but about the music. It was kind of a direct communion. The main kind of classical music I initially liked was ballet music. I was into the Peer Gynt Suite by Edvard Grieg, The Firebird by Igor Stravinsky and The Nutcracker Suite by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. (These are not links to the recordings I actually listened to. This early on, I did not pay attention to this sort of thing.)
The popular forms of music I heard didn’t have the same effect on me. When I heard popular music blaring on the school bus, it was more of an audible assault than a communion. At times, I had to sing hymns, carols, old American songs, and current popular songs, and I found it all boring and unappealing. Privately, I could enjoy good music from the core of my being, but in social settings, the music other people performed or listened to usually didn’t appeal to me. The experience of having bad music forced on me was not the same as that of naturally enjoying good music. One of my earliest memories is of being forced to go to barbershop concerts my father performed in. This mainly left me with a distaste for barbershop. At my maternal grandparent’s house, Lawrence Welk was often on the television, and I had very little appreciation for the anemic garbage he called music.
Another kind of music I liked as a child was something I knew as jungle music. We had a record called "Jungle Music" with zebra stripes on it. I have since lost this record, and I don’t recall who it was. My best guess is that it might have been something in the exotica genre, which I have recently been streaming.
Another thing I liked as a child was the music in Disney movies. The first record I bought myself was a Mary Poppins soundtrack. It was lively and happy music with a sense of intelligence. I also liked The Sound of Music. I had a 45 of The Bear Necessities from the Jungle Book. From an early age, I was regularly watching Disney’s Fantasia when it periodically came to the local movie theater.
At some point in my childhood, I heard Switched-On Bach by the artist then known as Walter Carlos. This is one of the most important albums I have ever heard. It fueled my interest in Bach and began my interest in electronic music. I listened to various albums of moog music, but it was mainly a lot of cheesy novelty stuff, not serious electronic music. So it didn’t have the same appeal for me.
When Star Wars came out, I got into the music of John Williams. I had soundtracks to Star Wars, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Superman, and The Empire Strikes Back. This was some of the best music I had ever heard.
For the most part, the popular music of the day wasn’t appealing to me. My father tried to introduce me to some rock music he thought I might like. He gave me a record by Electric Light Orchestra, which I found boring, and also what I think was Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. I later got into Rick Wakeman on my own, but at the time this didn’t appeal to me.
I made a cassette recording of some of the music I liked. I remember including A Fifth of Beethoven, which was a disco version of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, Liberace’s piano version of The Long And Winding Road, and The Age Of Aquarius.
My parents hired a private music appreciation tutor for me for a while. The main thing she introduced me to that I really liked was The Planets, as performed on the synthesizer by Isao Tomita. This was the first really excellent electronic music I had heard since Switched-On Bach. It led to an interest in Gustav Holst’s Planets and to Tomita’s electronic versions of classical music. I got a copy of Tomita’s version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition. I have since collected multiple versions of both The Planets and Pictures at an Exhibition.
Not long after this, I saw Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on PBS. This introduced me to the music of Vangelis. This was the first time I was hearing original, serious electronic compositions. I got the soundtrack to Cosmos and listened to it regularly. I also got the soundtrack to Chariots Of Fire. It was a boring movie, but Vangelis had composed some good music for it.
Around the time of my parents’ divorce, I still wasn’t that much into popular music, but there were a couple popular artists I was listening to regularly. These were Neil Diamond and The Carpenters. At the time, I was a Christian, and I was also starting to listen to a Christian singer named EVIE.
Thanks to a Jack Chick Crusaders comic called Spellbound, I came to believe that secular rock music was Satanic. When I was just a young teenager, a Christian rock group called Friends of Jesus performed in our church. This got me more interested in Christian rock, and for a time, I was in a Christian rock mail-order club. I don’t seem to have this music anymore. I remember that I learned about Amy Grant, whom I still like, around this time, but the other artists were not as memorable. I think one group was called Maranatha.
At a Church youth group party I went to, one of the girls whose home we were at played Asia and John Cougar Mellencamp. I liked both, but especially Asia. Enjoying this music led me to dismiss the ideas in the Jack Chick comic. I started listening to popular music on the radio, and I started looking into the bands the members of Asia had been in previously. As it happened, popular music had gotten a lot better since my childhood. There were now bands like Men at Work, ABC, and Duran Duran, who sounded much better than most of the popular music I heard in my childhood. Also, my research into Asia led to a lifelong interest in progressive rock. While I was still in high school, I was listening to Yes, UK, The Buggles, Genesis, Supertramp, and Rush.
While still in high school, I borrowed a record from the school library with some music of Debussy on it. It had La Mer and the three Nocturnes, and Debussy quickly became one of my favorite composers.
On my first day of college, the R.A. heard me playing UK, and he told me that he was also into progressive rock. He let me borrow some of his records, and through him I first heard Renaissance, Tangerine Dream, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. While in college, I started listening to the college radio station. Most of the time it played alternative music that I didn’t hear on other radio stations. Listening to it, I got into artists like The Box, The Pogues, and The B-52’s. Each week, Monday nights I think, there was a program on progressive rock. This is where I first heard bands like King Crimson and Nectar.
About a year into college, I tuned into Music from the Hearts of Space. This was a program dedicated to new age and space music, lots of which was electronic. I listened to this program regularly and made cassette recordings of each episode. Through Hearts of Space, I got into Constance Demby, Raphael, and various other new age and electronic artists.
In my sophomore year of college, I tuned into an NPR station playing the music of Artie Shaw. Aside perhaps from cartoons, this was my first exposure to jazz, and I liked it a lot. This led to an interest in Duke Ellington and other swing artists. I also started listening to Miles Davis and Pat Metheny.
Before going to graduate school, I got my first CD player. I immediately bought Going for the One as my first CD. I already owned the record and liked it a lot. My early CD purchases included a lot of Yes, Tangerine Dream, and Renaissance. I also picked up random CDs that interested me. One of my first CDs was Violin Voyager> by Kim Angelis. This was the first album I had of instrumental world music.
When I went to graduate school, the college radio station was worthless. It had a policy of mixing together different styles of music, so that I couldn’t keep it on continuously. So I started listening to a local station that played new age and contemporary jazz. I would later recognize the jazz it played as Smooth Jazz. Through this station, I got into such artists as Michael Franks, The Yellowjackets, and Acoustic Alchemy.
To be continued.