Musical memories

 I have an addiction: The Detroit Tigers.  But that's not what I'm writing about today, rather I shall write about another addiction I have: I peruse musician info pages on orchestra websites.  I mostly want to find out what else orchestra musicians do besides play in orchestra.  Sometimes I'm dissappointed ("I like to go to chamber music concerts" really?  That's all?).  Sometimes it's enlightening ("I compete in triathalons" way to go!).

But the item on these questionnaires about music that catches me is the one about the earliest musical memory.  I think it's interesting to see if it relates to what instrument a person plays.  Usually, I find no connection at all, which makes this segment of the blog posting rather pointless, doesn't it?  But I write in stream-of-consciousness style, so sue me.  One of these days, I'll edit.

As for me, I can clearly remember sitting on the organ bench in Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan with my Mom playing organ.  I was probably six years old.  Mom was a single parent, and gigged just about every Sunday at many churches arounf Grand Rapids, but Eastminster was one of the more regular destinations (a common question amongst my older sister, brother, and me was "what denomination are we this week?").  Since I didn't know the kids in the church, Mom would have me sit with her on the bench while she played, and I would draw during the sermons.  I would turn pages sometimes, and get her music in order for the service (for some reason this interested me).  The best part, though, was at the end of every hymn.  Mom would point to a note on the organ's pedalboard--the root of the final chord--and have me pound down on it with the whole congregation singing.  I felt such power!  A little Dutch six-year-old making that huge 16-foot organ pipe blare forth for all to hear!  What a way to spend a Sunday morning!

As I look back, I often think about those mornings, and the probable likelihood that is was that situation that made me a musician.  It wasn't school, it wasn't trombone lessons, it wasn't going to concerts.  It was that early experience of sheer joy and pleasure associated with making music.  And to this day, I am still drawn to low sounds, big power chords, and window-shaking volume.  For these reasons, I sincerely love reliving my earliest musical memories.

Take a minute, if you want, to share your earliest musical memory.  Did it shape you as a person?  Can you vivdly relive it?  Was a singular event, or an ongoing occurance?




Re: Musical memories

Well, I just don't know why anyone uses their hands . . .

My earliest musical memory? Singing. At the age of four or five. Just singing tunes I'd heard. I can't say it shaped anything profound.

first music, etc

First, I would like to congratulate Chris for including more contemporary music and music by unfamiliar composers than has been common on WXXI. To introduce myself, I am not musically trained but have had an interest in classical music ever since my teens growing up in a small Virginia town. The only classical music on radio was the NY Philharmonic on Sunday afternoons. I was surprised and gratified to find that there was something more complex and interesting than pop music.

This brings me to a gripe I have with WXXI. I realize you cannot program too much avant garde music without scaring away many listeners. But on December 11 Elliott Carter celebrated his 100th birthday with a Carnegie Hall bash that made page 1 of the New York Times. I listened most of the day to WXXI and heard only one piece by Carter, in the late evening program: Elegy, a short early piece quite uncharacteristic of his mature output. Can't you do better than that for a man who is among the greatest American composers? While his music is too complex for him to achieve the popularity of his contemporaries such as Copland and Barber, he should get more general attention than he does. He is, as far as I know, the only American composer whose papers the Sacher Foundation in Switzerland has asked for. Other composers represented in their archive include Strauss, Bartok, Hindemith and Stravinsky.

re: Eliot Carter, and comments on topic

I am grateful for your passion and enthusiasm for contemporary music--I share both with you.  And I am so happy you enjoy some of the newer and different sounds I seek out in our record library to play on air.  I have to admit that I have an ignorance of the music of Carter (aside from "Black Angels," the go-to sample for college music history courses), which is a big reason I do not prgoram it.  Your post has encouraged me to investigate his work more in-depth.  I am constantly in search of musical enlightenment, so in spite of my prejuduice against his music I pledge to study his work with a fresher ear (as I hope listeners to our station do when we play something new).

As for this blog, I was hoping to begin a discussion about musical memories, and if possible I'd like to keep comments on topic.  Programming concerns generally go through our Music Director, Julia Figueras, and comments about my programming are easily left on my phone or email (I try to respond as quickly as possible).  The topic of contemporary music, though, is one that I think would be excellent fodder for a future discussion here, and I will seek out a way to approach that topic.  

 Chris Van Hof

WXXI-FM Afternoon Host

Also a multi-genre Trombonist