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Music Is My Life

My first coherent memory as a small child of 2 was the sound of a Javanese gamelan being played at the TV station across the street. Its airy bell tones and the accompanying koto were my wake-up call into this world. Before that time, before that moment, I may have lived, but was not conscious of being alive. At that moment, with the haunting melody drifting in with the sunset, the cobalt blue of the tropical sky highlighting the brilliant pinks and oranges of the futon blanket draped over the railing of my crib, something deep inside my mind and heart clicked together, a breaker closed, and the lights within my soul came on. I still enjoy hearing the round tones of metallophone iron bells, and lyrical Japanese koto sounds, because they take me back to that First Moment.

My life from that moment on had a soundtrack. Music on the radio, music played on tapes my dad made in the hobby shop on the base and played for us over and over again. Records carefully placed in the hi-fi set as I was taught; Dionne Warwick assuring me that "love will be yours in the end" on the AM station on the treasured transistor radio late at night, songs sung in choir at school, soundtracks from movies. My discovery of the FM band marked a divergence in the sonic harmony of my family’s house- the constant country music my mother loved was now supplemented by mid-seventies rock played on an automated FM radio station that had no DJs, just announcements of the songs, and occasional ads.

I can listen to a song and tell you where and when I was when it was popular. Prince’s "1999", and Duran Duran’s debut album, along with Mannheim Steamroller’s early "Fresh Aire" albums were the soundtracks and background music of my time in Silicon Valley in the early 80s- when there were still some orchards left, and Milpitas was still a sleepy backwater town. "Band on the Run" was bus music to football games in high school, along with other Eagles, Wings, Kiss and Stones tunes. "Off the Wall" equals tech school to me, and Mark Isham, Jean-Michael Jarre and Vangelis accompanied many a late night repairing radio vans in Germany. David Arkenstone, Londonbeat, and U2 were the sound of England in the early 90s. My interest in pop music began to fade after I returned to the States in ’93. I sadly discovered that the lively tastes of Europeans did not make the jump across the Atlantic; and the American cuts and mixes of European music I used to dance to all night were castrated into bland gutless ghosts of their former selves. I have not bought an American pop album since then.

I can probably safely say that I have spent nearly as much money on my ears with my audio gear and music collection as I have spent on my brain, with my library. Maybe more. I’m one of those wretched ‘early adapter’ sorts, and when CDs made their appearance in 1983, my little futuristic-SF self was smitten. Here was something that was easy to handle, difficult to damage, and sounded just as good on the 1000th playing as it did on the first. No more hissing or popping. No more shelling out big bucks on audiophile vinyl and tapes and all the rest of that dreck.

My first CD purchased was Andreas Vollenweider’s "White Winds" in 1985, shortly before I went overseas to Germany. I didn’t even have a CD player yet- I wanted the disk because I loved the album so much. Within 2 months of my arrival overseas, I had a CD player- a gawky first-generation Sony Discman. I attached it to my boombox, and was in audio heaven. I later acquired the guts of my audio system- a Sansui receiver, and a pair of Klipsch KG-4 speakers. I adore them, and still have them. Since I now have a civilian job that actually PAYS something, I plan to supplement my beloved Klipsch with some nice Polk home theatre speakers, and treat my computer system to the Klipsch Pro sub-sat system.

I acquired CDs at the rate of two to four per payday while in the military. This was easy because they were priced fairly low ($12) and the PX at Vogelweh had a huge selection. I also browsed the European shops for audio treats. Unlike record shops in the US, the Euro shops kept the discs behind a counter, allowing the customers to look at the cases and liner notes, and had listening stations to permit you to listen to the album before you bought it. I am convinced that such browsing made me buy more CDs.

Currently, my collection tops 500 discs, and that is after I culled out all the duds. Most of my music is eclectic- there are very few pop albums in my collection. I have loads of soundtracks, jazz, electronic, and unique and unusual music that serves as atmosphere and background for my writing and studies. It is rich, high calorie listening- mostly instrumental, but when there are vocals, they are rarely in English. This is because vocals distract me when I am writing or reading, but in another language, they simply become another instrument.

So, you won’t find the critique of pop music’s latest half-starved caterwauler in this collection- or any other Corporate Pop/Rock/Rap/Indie offerings. There are plenty of people mindlessly worshipping at the feet of Bad Music- I choose not to. Instead, I hope to intrigue you enough about my own non-conformist tastes to perhaps tempt you to try something good for a change. Here is my musical Home Cooking challenging their Corporate Hamburger Stand offerings. Any links posted to the record label have been done with their permission- I am not making any money recommending these albums.

2000 by Sunfell

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