I haven’t bought a new CD in years. The fact that I still refer to music acquisition as “buying CDs” should tell you something about how long it’s been.
One of my kids today asked me, “What’s your favorite thing to listen to on the radio, Mama?”
I answered with something like, “Oh, I dunno. News, I guess.”
He was a little surprised by my answer.
It’s not that I don’t like music. I do. I like it very much. It’s just that, somewhere along the way, I began to lose my taste for the prerecorded stuff. It went away gradually, I suppose, though I can recall a few distinct moments that may have hurried its departure.
One such catalyst came way back when I was great with my first child. Ken and I had been given tickets to a rather high-falutin’ concert of some sort — we both think now that it might have been a performance of Handel’s Messiah, which I had loved for years but which I think I may never have heard performed professionally before.
The concert was amazing. I remember thinking at the time, “This is nothing like my CD. The louds are louder. The softs are softer. Everything’s clearer and richer — and it’s all around me. It’s like I’m swimming in sound . . . like I’m breathing music.”
(Actually, I just made that up. Mostly what I remember thinking during the concert was, “AHHH. This is GOOD.” The rest came later.)
Ever since then, I’ve found myself more and more often preferring even dismally mediocre live music to the very best of the canned stuff.
What I like even better than watching and listening to other musicians make music in my general vicinity, however, is making music myself. And what I like even better than making music myself is making music with others.
It’s like baseball.
You’re confused. Let me explain.
See, I enjoy baseball . . . sort of. Below are my favorite ways to enjoy the game of baseball, listed in descending order from YAY (at the top) to BOO (at the bottom).
- Playing a game of baseball with friends.
- Playing catch or doing batting practice with a friend.
- Playing catch with myself.
- Watching a live baseball game.
- Watching the grass on a baseball field grow.
- Falling asleep on the grass at a baseball field.
- Ignoring the game of baseball entirely.
- Watching baseball on TV.
I’m sure you get the idea. I feel kind of the same way about music. So most of the time, if I get a hankering to hear some music, I sit down and make myself some music.
I play the piano. I sing. I tootle on the flute, the fife, the recorder, or the penny whistle. I rattle a tamborine, shake an egg shaker, or beat a drum. I ask Ken into pick up his guitar and jam with me. (I have become convinced over the years that I have the wrong sort of fingers for playing the guitar.) I play “Puff the Magic Dragon” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” until my fingers are numb while the kids sing and frolic along.
When musicians beyond our immediate family happen to be handy, the music gets even better: a cappella hymn sings in four-part harmony; rowdy rock concerts; acoustic jam sessions; classical ensembles; old-timey hootenanies.
To keep the tunes coming regularly, we recently instituted a weekly Sunday evening music night at our house. (We don’t necessarily make music only on Sundays, but we do now always set aside at least a little time to make music then, barring calamity or scheduling conflicts.) If you’d like to by some Sunday and sing with us . . . or blow a harmonica . . . or even just sit and listen, drop me a line. I’m pretty sure I know a guy who knows a guy who can hook you up with an all-access pass.
If geography makes it impossible for you to join one of our noisy little parties, well . . . here you go. Just for you, here’s a little canned music for your benefit, recorded last Wednesday evening before my brother had to head back to Alaska after the holidays.
(You’ll hear Ken and my brother Daniel on guitar, my Dad on banjo, me on lead vocals, and my talented little nephew on backup vocals and percussion.)
So . . . how do you “do” music?