More on music….

Thanks to Clapton, some more musings on music….

I’m just coming off of a number of years (1…2…3…many…) where I’ve basically tuned out to music. The radio market here in the Bay Area really, really sucks (thanks to ClearChannel and their friends, that suckiness has been franchised nationwide, too). I found very little that spoke to me. About the only station I listen to is KUFX, a “classic rock” (all pink floyd, all the time) station, but even that’s spotty, and that pretty much defines where my personal tastes in contemporary music are (or more correctly, stopped).

As a kid, I was very involved in music. I picked up clarinet early, played it until the orthodontist nuked it while I got the teeth straightened. That led me to look for a suitable replacement. I played some oboe, until the tooth doctor found out and nuked that, too. Tried tuba, and for the first time in my life discovered extreme boredom while performing (blat blat, sleep ten bars, blat, up a third, blat). Switched to trumpet decided that I just don’t connect with the brasses. I don’t have the coordination to set up a drum set, much less play it. I tried guitar a few times, just never got into it.

So in junior high, I more or less dropped playing. My parental units threatened me a few times with piano lessons, but we never had that fight. High school I got involved somewhat in drama, which got me involved in musicals, which got me to the point where I’ll puke before the second act of Oklahoma! if I’m within a timezone of it (but it also introduced me to more interesting fare, such as Man of La Mancha and Gilbert and Sullivan). I quickly decided that acting wasn’t for me and went tech. I was also heavily involved in athletics, so I got to listen (whether I wanted to or not) to the music played in school locker rooms at the time — in my case, fortunately, it was headbanging metal, not country…). hence my retreat to the days of Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, I think.

I worked disneyland from 1976 to 1980, mostly offstage, mostly swing shift or graveyard. It was an interesting environment – as a corporation, it was falling apart (I was there for the first strike, which involved people I worked with, and I had to cross the picket line because I was a different union and ther were no-strike clauses), and it was very much “How did Walt do this?” at taht time. But one of the things they did every summer was run a swing series in Carnation gardens — and it was the names of the movement: Basie played there every year, and both of the travelling Glenn Miller orchestras. And others. So once a week, I got in the habit of spending an off day in the park, at the Gardens, listening to whoever was in town that week. I don’t think I realized until later just how special it was to be sitting 25′ from Count Basie for three sets every summer until much later — but I definitely innoculated with a love of swing, whether it’s Basie, Ellington, Buddy Rich, Glenn Miller or (of course) Benny Goodman.

Since that time, I’ve sort of wandered. A few groups have caught my attention (Police, Cars, Stray Cats, as have individual songs or singers. I’ve discovered new, non–mainstream music (of all things, bagpipes and steel drums, but not at the same time. Honest). I picked up an appreciation for Webber and Fosse (and if you can figure out a pair that different, bless you) in theater, but most theater today leaves me pretty cold. It’s gotten too big, too commercial, to blockbuster, and yes, I know Webber has a huge chunk of the blame for that, thank you.

When I played, I was a technical musician, the kind of musician you find doing first chair in the orchestra, not wailing out at the club. I’d practice, not rif.

Craft, not art. Story of my life, actually. And that’s not a gripe. Lots of good stuff being an honest craftsman. Much better and more honest than a lot of the self-called artists who aren’t. What’s an artist? what’s a craftsman? that’s some other piece…)

A couple of months ago, for some reason, I started shifting back into music. I don’t know why, I just did. I’m probably the last Apple employee to fire up iTunes, but now all my CD’s are burnt. After macworld, I’ll probably buy an iPod for more convenience. And I’ve been wandering through my collection, re-acquainting myself with it. And that’s giving me the playing jones again.

This journey is just beginning, but I’m looking for suggestions — I’m looking for something that’s nicely programmable and which I won’t outgrow too soon, a good keyboard, and I can connect to MIDI (and my macintoshes). Any thoughts? And what OS x tools do I want to go with it?

I’m still 3-6 months out on this project, but I’m always researching what’s next while implementing my current project (the woodshop…). And the nice thing of going to a keyboard synth is I can slap on headphones and only annoy myself, and it’s osmething I can work on in the evenings, which seems to be the only free time I get….

I’ve thought about going back to clarinet, but it’s been so long. I just don’t think so. But I’ve been intrigued since the 70’s with synths, so I’ve started thinking about buying one. Finally, after all those years avoiding piano lessons, learning a keyboard. Since a good synth can be programmed to do bagpipe (and steel drum. Maybe at the same time!), it gives me access to things I’d like to do, but I like my neighbors too much to actually practice here.

So, if I were to look at a high end hobby or low- to mid-range prosumer keyboard/synth, what do i want to get? What software tools do I want to get to support it? thoughts, anyone?