Jul 8, 2006

Bozeman Recorder Ensemble Blues

The other day at work I was listening to an old episode of This American Life, which is what Courtney and I do at work when we have mindless drafting tasks to accomplish. I put on the one on the theme of Music Lessons, which was hilarious and entertaining with a live performance by both David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell (who actually sounded a little nervous, it was a long time ago) speaking about the role music played in each of their childhoods. The highlight of David's was his confession that as a child he wanted to take his act, which consisted of him singing advertising jingles in the voice of Billie Holiday, on the road -- he actually sang the Oscar Mayer Baloney song, and it wrecked me. But it was the Sarah Vowell piece that got me thinking about how I wasted my youth not being a band geek.

Seriously. I should have been a band geek, and I regret it. The truth is that I couldn't have been one even if I chose to at that time, because I just didn't like the kids in band so much. Being a band geek is a lot more than playing the tuba in band; it involves embracing the social aspects full-on and forming a little band clatch of misfits and bad dressers. But I had a lot of the other prerequisites, if I had been able to shed my skepticism and join up.

First of all, I would have met people like Sarah, with whom I apparently have a lot in common (which I learned after listening to her piece). When she was in junior high, she played a whole lot of band instruments decently, but she particularly excelled at one non-band instrument -- the recorder. But unlike me, she actually loved baroque recorder music so much that she tried to find others to play with, and they turned out to be the Bozeman Recorder Ensemble, which I'm sure looked just like this. The mean age was older than her parents, and the women were all church singers and the men were all ponytailed math professors. She had a formative musical experience because she was able to get over trying to be cool in middle school and just go with her real love -- playing the recorder.

A similar opportunity was wasted for me after college, when I was living with Anna on Rose Street and tried to bust into the Irish Dancing Scene at the Starry Plough. I tried, I really did. Because I LOVE Irish dancing in a way that I cannot really express -- when I hear the strains of some old ballad, I freak out internally and want to do some serious set dancing. But ultimately, I dropped out for the same reasons I failed at becoming a band geek: I couldn't let myself get into their tight-knit social thing. You could go dancing at the Plough on Mondays, but unless you were willing to go to so-and-so's on Tuesday to watch the Simpsons, and to so-and-so's on Wednesday for some weird role-playing game, and to ComiCon on Saturday and foam-sword-bashing in the park on Sunday, you just couldn't get in with them enough to properly learn to dance for real. So I fled in shame and went back to trying to be hip.

Still, I have a lot of closet habits that are destined to remain solitary pursuits. For example, I own a good chunk of recordings of the genre formerly known as Folk Rock and I will continue to sing about blacksmiths and murderous royalty and foxhunts and the losing of maidenheads and all that corsetty stuff, all while in the privacy of my own car or shower.

I am slowly exposing TJ to some of this -- right now we are listening to a Bert Jansch recording of Blackwaterslide. It's an acoustic treatment of a traditional song that also made its way into Led Zeppelin's debut album in the form of Black Mountain Side. He's amenable - this is a great crossover genre for us to share, as he appreciates the "hella tight" bluesy fingerpicking style and I get to sing about medieval misfortunes...

One morning fair I took the air
Down by Blackwater Side
And in gazing out all around me
The Irish lad I spied

All through the far part of the night
We lay in sport and play
Till this young man arose and gathered his clothes
Saying, faretheewell today

That's not the promise you gave to me
When you first lay on my breast
You made me believe with your lying tongue
That the sun rose in the west

Well, go you back to your father's garden
Go you home and weep your fill
And think you upon your own misfortune
Brought by your wanton will


Blogger Megan opined...

Oh honey! It is SO IMPORTANT that you listen carefully to all those ballads, for your safety . And how come we didn't listen to those when you lived here? I have a secret past of folk ballads as well.

P.S. I like the stuff Sarah Vowell thinks, but I freakin' hate listening to her. Man, her voice is annoying.

1:08 PM  

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