In which I toot my own horn and drone on and on
While you might not believe it, The Bookstooge does have a History with Music. I was reminded of this fact when I read the A Very Short Introduction: Early Music last week. While ours was not a tempestuous love affair filled with passionate nights on the Riviera and dramatic and public breakups and reconciliations by day, The Bookstooge and Music are much more than just nodding acquaintances.
It all started in elementary school, as I recall. Music was a required class starting in 3rd or 4th grade and we all had to learn an instrument. For some reason I wanted to learn to play the trumpet. I have no idea why and I suspect it had more to do with the trumpet being shiny than anything else. My parents talked it over and since we lived in an apartment building with neighbors above, below and next to us, the idea was quickly squashed. And the price. I had no idea trumpets were so expensive. Thus, I was relegated to learning the recorder, a nice cheap instrument that wasn’t “that” loud and was about the simplest thing you could learn.
I was pretty proud of that instrument and spent at least a whole month being interested in it. After that, I realized that learning music and learning to play were a lot of work, work that took time that could be better spent playing outside. The church school I was at had one music teacher and I’m pretty sure she was just overworked. I remember we were supposed to learn “When the Caissons Go Rolling In” or something like that. I never learned it and I don’t remember there being ANY repercussions to not learning it. However, while I can’t tell you A from G or what a sharp or flat is, I do know the quarter, half, whole and double notes.
My next step down the musical path was in junior high. For those of you who live in the benighted outskirts of the world, junior-high consists of grades 6,7 and 8, your classic tween and early teen years. The only thing I really remember from this time is that music wasn’t cool, our whole class was pretty sullen and our music teacher was trying to teach us like we were still kids and not the intelligent almost adults that we knew we were. Looking back, I feel very bad for that teacher!
In highschool I discovered listening to music for pleasure with such artists as Enya, Ed Van Fleet and Synchestra. My love of new age/easy listening / electronica began then and there. At the same time I learned some basic musical theory and the ideas of harmony, melody and rhythm that have stuck with me to this day.
The next step was in my freshman year of bibleschool. We put on a musical called “One Voice” which was a Passion Play about Christ. After performing it at Easter, we took it on the road to several of the sister churches associated with the school. THAT was a very tumultuous time for me. I now know that I am not a group person and that people wear me out and even just being around people eats at my emotional reserves. I didn’t know that then and my emotions were on a flipping rollercoaster and I had no idea why or what to do about it. I was learning stuff like a sponge, including how to use a soundboard and that whole side of music. I swore after that experience to never participate in a group for music and I haven’t.
During my junior year a local church ran a weeklong series of seminars and one of them was on “Music and Emotions”. What an eye opener that was! Simply learning how things like rhythm, percussion, repetition all affected the emotions of the listener was a huge boon to me. Learning that most modern music is meant to manipulate the emotions of the listeners into a sense of sensual self-indulgence of feeling made the allure of the pulse pounding stuff that naturally attracted me not quite so attractive.
During this time I was in charge of the sound booth at church. I was regularly working with the choir before or after church and let me tell you, what I learned about group dynamics was another brick in my musical mountain. Learning how to balance bass, tenor, alto and soprano, how to listen for the acoustics in the hall, learning that what you hear with your ear can be quite different than what gets recorded, once again I was soaking it all in. I was also learning the mechanical side of music. Running cords, using mics, getting soundboards tuned. I learned that the people singing are only about 1/3 of what goes into that kind of thing.
Then I graduated, began working in the Land Survey field and was still running the sound booth. Only now I was teaching the up and coming kids how to do it. They weren’t kidding when they say you learn more from teaching than from learning.
Life kept progressing. I met and married Mrs B, we started attending another church and I ended up running the sound department for a couple of years. Things expanded once again only now, I wasn’t so keen to learn. I was tired of singers acting like prima donnas and thinking that the singing was the most important part. I was tired of old people complaining that they couldn’t hear and young people complaining that it was too loud. I was tired of people coming up to me at 9am Sabbath morning and saying “Oh, by the way, can we do X” and them expecting miracles. They had no idea what they were asking and when we regularly overcame the hurdles and did what they asked, they just assumed it was normal and kept asking for more and more. And if you said “no”, boy, they looked at you like you were the devil incarnate!
In ’18 we began attending our current church and I helped out with sound for about a year. At our current church, worship through song is as big a part as the sermon and contemporary worship music was the name of the game. I eventually had to stop being part of the sound crew because I couldn’t take it. Even now, we come later so as to avoid the majority of the music. Neither I or Mrs B like contemporary and we just want the old hymns.
So right now, music is a very small part of my life. I probably voluntarily listen to music once or twice a month and if it was down to zero I’d be ok. I know this is just a phase and at some point I’ll get into another aspect of music. I’ll be interested to see what that is when it happens 😀