I learned to listen to music, growing up, through my father’s weekend ministrations.
The man was in love with the stereo.
A connoisseur of swing music in particular, I was his chosen child, She Who Stands Between The Speakers.
“Stand right here,” he would shout over the music, ushering me to an oddly matted spot on the living room carpet. “No, over here – Pearl! Pearl! Are you listening to me? Come here! Come here!"
There it was, the best spot to stand in order to receive the full affect of whatever he was listening to, there in the living room between the speakers.
I was one of the few 4th graders I knew who could accurately identify a drummer by song, timbre, or style.
OK. I was the only 4th grader I knew that could accurately identify a drummer by song, timbre, or style.
You’d think this would garner a cult-like following of my fellow 4th graders, wouldn’t you? Ah, but you’d be wrong there, my friend. No matter where we moved, my ability to tell Chick Corea from Buddy Rich was never fully appreciated.
You can imagine my surprise.
“You hear that? You hear that?” he’d say; and my father, in the middle of conducting the imaginary 40-piece orchestra in the middle of the trailer park living room would dash to the stereo, picking up the needle.
“Now listen,” he’d say. “Listen for the high-hat – you know what the high-hat is, right?”
“Da-ad!!” He was forever quizzing me on the names of the various pieces that make up a drum kit, who played what in which band, wanting to know if I preferred the recorded or the live versions of songs.
Oh, Dad. Questioning me on the cymbals? I would shake my head in disgust. Who does he think he’s dealing with here?
And then he’d drop the needle.
“OK – wait. Listen! You hear that?! You hear that sonuvagun play?” Dad was a passionate fan of the drums, being a drummer himself, and had a reverence for Gene Krupa in particular that bordered on the religious.
And after years of listening, I find I do the same thing to my son – a professional drummer – and I finally see what the music really is, why the stamp of music geek was placed on my brow so many years ago, and why the matted carpet between the speakers on that “Harvest Gold” shag was the best spot in the living room.
It's not just music we're sharing.
We're sharing history.