I know nothing about music. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise…not that anyone will. I’d blame my parents, but they were just doing as the Borg instructed them: eliminate all secular, i.e. all non-Borg approved, influences, especially in matters of art (but also in matters of people), from our lives. As we all know, nothing truly good or beautiful or holy can come except from Borg-sanctioned avenues, created for the enjoyment of the hive mind. Well, maybe I’ll blame my parents a little bit for not having musical genes to pass along to me. Besides the fact that I’m not remotely musically inclined, I’d have to say it goes beyond mere style preference and admit that I really just don’t know a thing about it.
I attended public school through 4th grade. At our school, that was the year orchestra instruments were introduced. I chose the violin. I have no idea how my parents paid for my violin (although, since I no longer have it, I imagine it was rented), but I loved that thing. I loved the feel of the bow in my hand, the smell of the rosin, the feel of the hair dragged across the strings, shaping my fingers into a bunny over the frog; I loved the smoothness of the instrument, the soft plinging of plucked strings, the stickers to show where my fingers should rest on the neck.
Fourth grade was also the year I heard the other kids talking about sex. I had no idea what sex was (even after looking at their graphic stick figure illustrations), so I asked. They told me to go ask my mother. So I did. Poor Mama. I don’t remember her explanation, but I remember her attempt at drawing a penis because I was so uncomfortable that I colored in the balls and turned them into a pair of sunglasses, à la Mr. Clever.
So, like any good mother, she let simple biology and the animal kingdom do the explaining. The next time our cat went into heat, she let it out. She pulled me over to the window and explained as gently as she could what was happening, but all I could think was that that boy cat sure was biting on my cat’s neck a lot and that it felt like we were spying on something very private. Several weeks later, Mama woke me up in the night because our cat was delivering her kittens in the designated L & D box in my parents’ closet. To me, there is nothing as primeval, as primitive, as carrying and bearing young. Our cat fulfilled this part of her nature with grace. It was fascinating to see her chew threw the cord and clean her crew of 4. Soon they were suckling, our cat purring overhead. Over those first few weeks, I played on my violin the music of heaven for our new kittens.
In 5th grade I switched to a small Christian penitentiary school (perhaps it was all the sex talk) that also emphasized the hive mind. Assimilate or else. The school was very small and had no string orchestra program. I was sad, but was relieved to find out that 5th grade was the year we could choose an instrument for the school band. I really wanted to play the trombone. Mama talked me into the clarinet.
I thought the clarinet was alright. I didn’t enjoy the feel of the reed against my tongue or the way spit collected in hidden pools through my instrument and dripped on me when I was putting it back in its case. I didn’t like that there were about 12 clarinet players (98% girls) and only 2 trombone players (100% boys). But I liked being in the band and learning about the music. The first few years we even had a pep band to play at basketball games, and I really liked playing those songs. “Hang On Sloopy” is not just the official state rock song of Ohio, it’s one of my personal favorites as well. By high school, we had a rookie band teacher who got so upset that we couldn’t keep the time on “When Johnny Came Marching Home” that she threw her baton and music stand to the ground and stormed out. I quit band after that, thankfully, and started contemplating what other evils my tongue could be used for, like kissing boys. (*Gasp! Debauchery!*)
Besides my short-lived band experience, I don’t remember much music from childhood other than Psalty the Singing Songbook or The Donut Man or The Music Machine or other Christian themed stuff. And while the other kids were coming of age listening to pop music on the radio, we were at the peak of banning things not sacred. I finally got my parents to OK the local Oldies station, and I fell in love with The Beatles, The Temptations, Elvis, The Beach Boys, The Supremes, Sam Cooke, Jim Croce, Roy Orbison, CCR, Jay & the Americans, and a ton of others.
While my friends were discovering their talents on their guitars, I became a passive listener. I am a music couch potato. I have my dad’s hand-me-down, first generation iPod that I’ve never touched except to hit “Play.” I have easily as many records as cds. Even now, the only good music I have in my collection is because someone else with a more discerning ear has forced it upon me (this is probably not the proper place to admit that I never buy music–oops). Not that I mind. I’d never go out of my way to find new “good” music. I’d still listen to mix tapes that Israel made for me a decade ago if I had a tape deck. Fortunately, he still sends me fun new music. And I have other friends to introduce me to more good stuff. Thank goodness, because my iTunes looks like it’s been taken over by a 16 year old with a Madonna fixation (or else a 50 year old who really likes Jimmy Buffett).
So, sure, I love some pretty awful music. I don’t listen to music because it is good; I listen to music because of how it makes me feel. . . . I guess that is debauchery.