Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Playing an Instrument as an Extension of Music Appreciation

I finally jumped on the vinyl trend as of August 2015.  I was in high school and college in the early to mid-90’s when CDs were at their peak, and before that I had cassette tapes.  I only recall having a few actual vinyl records as a kid.  By the time I really got into buying albums it was all on tapes or disk.  The nudge to vinyl happened last month when a friend gave me an old Radio Shack turntable/amp/speaker setup and some old records to go along with it.

After upgrading to a new turntable and speakers, I thought it would be fun to try and get some of my favorite all-time albums on LP, such as Ween “The Mollusk”, The Flaming Lips “Yoshimi” and My Morning Jacket “Z”.  While that stuff is fun to hear in this way, I was surprised to discover how receptive I am to jazz music when played on the turntable:  Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra….the kind of thing that I have long respected but never really focused on until now.  I see a lot  more of that coming my way.
This retrograde to vinyl is an opportunity to reevaluate my musical tastes.  Do I really have more interest in hearing Pablo Casals play the Bach Cello Suites than in hearing the new Built to Spill album?  It depends on how much I've had to drink, but I think so, yes.

One reason it took me so long to get on the vinyl bandwagon was because that for most of the last 10 years I’ve been learning to play an instrument, and for much of that time my focus has been on learning fiddle tunes – music that may be fun to play but isn't exactly what you might throw on the record player and chill out to.  I saw no reason to listen to vinyl records because that had no correlation.  It would just have been a distraction.

However, now I think I’m ready for that distraction.  By using my instrument as a means to figure out what might be going on in the music that I love listening to, it not only deepens the appreciation of this music but puts the work I've been putting into learning about music to good use.


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