Beginnings

Mom

When I grew up, people generally gauged their “coming of age” musical happening as the purchase of their first cassette tape, or maybe if they could afford it, a CD.  With today’s technology, I have no idea how this translates…Downloading an album on the Internet?Regardless, there is a point in your life where you begin to acknowledge music specifically; a point where you feel the impulse to acquire music or feel attached to it on a personal level.  For me this happened in the 5th grade, when I bought my first CD: Everclear’s So Much For The Afterglow [Capital, 1997].

But what about music before you took it seriously?  Before that “coming of age” landmark?  You had always at least heard music whether or not you actually listened to it, right?

The memories are fuzzy, but I did have music before Everclear.

These are the earliest songs I can remember knowing.

  1. The Sign / Ace of Base from The Sign [Warner, 1993]
  2. Achy-Breaky Heart / Billy Ray Cyrus from Some Gave All [Mercury, 1992]
  3. Jump / Kris Kross from Totally Krossed Out [Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1992]
  4. With or Without You / U2 from The Joshua Tree [Island, 1987]
  5. Red Red Wine / UB40 from Labour of Love [A&M, 1983]

What are your five songs?

It’s hard to understand where you are without trying to understand where you’ve come from.  For me, going back and thinking about my earliest memories of music has helped me think about how I perceive music and art in the first place, and how my perception has changed as I grow.  This is exactly what Morton Feldman did in Madame Press Died Last Week At Ninety when he reconsidered a simple melodic gesture – a falling Major thirdfrom early music lessons with Maurina Press, his childhood piano instructor.  And the music that’s playing here, an excerpt of William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops, is simply a handful of disintegrating analog tape loops from an earlier time in Basinski’s life.  Their act of disintegration and the meditation upon it by a 20-some years older Basinski directly relates to our own aging and capacity for nostalgia.  Ultimately, I do believe perception and growth go hand in hand in both artists and the greater society and I have always loved this take on it, written by Stuart Saunders Smith and Thomas DeLio:

The art object is a catalyst for change.  In order to understand the products of any radically new approach to making art, the observer must often change his perceptual framework.  Only then can he hope to make sense out of the art work.  At first, the observer may experience a new work as non-sense; then as he changes, he experiences a new-sense; and, eventually, it becomes a common-sense, at which point the object may cease to provide information and become, instead, mere fact.  It is possible that, somewhere deeply embedded in the values of Western society lies the notion that “arriving” is not good for a culture’s health and well being. Cultural health is maintained by continually traveling.  By constantly enriching and transforming how we perceive the world and by continually broadening the base of possible perceptual strategies, artists provide a culture with constant sparks of renewal – a fountain of growth.  The creative process begins with the artist observing himself changing in the face of newly invented sensory experience.  Artistic growth (change) begins and continues with the artist changing his perception of the world as it filters through him.  In gauging and evaluating this change, the artist explores new territory.  He transforms and transcends his self, and like the rock thrown in the water, starts to make waves. (xi-xii)

Music credit: Dlp1.3 / William Basinski from The Disintegration Loops Volume IV [2062, 2003]

Text credit: From the introduction to Words and Spaces: An Anthology of 20th Century Musical Experiments in Language and Sonic Environments, edited by Stuart Saunders Smith and Thomas DeLio.

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