You know who you are. You have your particular genres of music that you listen to, and that’s it. I used to be like that. I used to say that I never listened to country music or bluegrass. And there were lots of other types of music I really didn’t like as well, e.g., Gregorian chant, Tuvan throat singing, and anything with sitar (too slidey).
Truth be told, I think I didn’t want to like country or bluegrass music because it would mean that I identified as a Southerner. Ever since moving from Montana to Arkansas as an 11-year-old, I had felt like an outsider. Accepting the music of that culture as my own felt like giving up part of myself. Part of my identity was NOT being from the South, and I wasn’t giving that up.
Interestingly enough, when I moved to Connecticut 35 years ago, part of my identity became NOT being from New England. I was a Southerner. And, lo and behold, I became a rabid country music fan. Ha ha! How silly is that?!
Enter Live Bluegrass
But then things started to happen like when I showed up to a county fair somewhere on a beautiful day, and there were was a live bluegrass band in full swing. I stopped for a moment next to the band stand to listen and watch. Man, were those guys KICKING IT! Whoa! Talk about FAST PICKING!! And they had AWESOME three-part harmony! The energy coming off of that stage was like nothing I had ever experienced. I really enjoyed their show! Did I leave and immediately start listening to bluegrass? Not at all. There was something about the prerecorded vibe that still wasn’t grabbing me.
Enter Chris Thile
Then I happened to hear “Smoothie Song” by Nickel Creek: Chris Thile, Sara Watkins, and Sean Watkins. Then I watched the cool video. It reached me at a deep level, somehow. The cleanness and articulation of the playing, the fun they were all having, the vibe. I was hooked! I went on later to become a big Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan fan. Imagine how happy I was when I’m With Her was formed (a trio of Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donavan). I had a chance to see them live at College Street Theater recently and wept through the entire concert, it was so beautiful.
Funny thing, my children came with their own ideas about music and their own interests. In order to keep myself in their worlds, I would listen to (and still listen to) their music. (See my post “What Songs Are Your Children Listening To.”)
Rachel tended to listen to a lot of what I would call “young girl pop music.” I know all the songs from Miley Cyrus and High School Musical, and now, because of her, I try to stay in touch with all things Taylor Swift. And our ongoing joint trio project with Abigail keeps me listening to groups like I’m With Her and The Wailing Jennys more than I might otherwise.
I spent an entire very long car ride getting an education from Zach about EDM, a.k.a. Electronic Dance Music. I learned about Dubstep and spent time listening to the likes of Haywyre, Au5, Virtual Riot, Seven Lions, and Deadmau5. I had to get over the fact that they used a 5 for an “s” and, in general, used really weird spellings for their band and artist names. I was judgmental about that and about the fact that no one seemed to be playing real instruments. But watching Zach become a composer while being inspired by those artists changed my entire attitude. It is just as much a legitimate way to express yourself musically as any other. Some of my favorite memories are all the fun he and his best friend Nathaniel Volf had as a duo called Daily Revival producing their EP Gold Dipped. They would just laugh and laugh and laugh! Six years later, they are still friends and still collaborating!
While I learned a lot from Rachel and Zach, Abigail is the one who really pushes me. She is totally engaged in keeping me up-to-date with music genres that really challenge me. For some reason, she seems to care the most about my music education. Because of her, artists I have come to enjoy as much as she are Vulfpeck (omg, Joe Dart’s bass playing!), The Fearless Flyers, Snarky Puppy, and Ghost Note (omg, I want to wear the bass player’s outfit!).
And she makes me listen to Jacob Collier regularly. It’s like my medicine or something.
She introduced me to Morgonrode, Norwegian folk. Who knew such a genre even existed? I mean, I guess every culture has their folk music, but how many others of you are actually THINKING about that enough to seek it out?
Tuvan Throat Singing
I used to think I really couldn’t stand Tuvan throat singing (maybe had to do with the fact that my mother introduced me to it when I was 13), and I still really don’t like it, but then I saw these guys. OMG!!! I LOVE THEM! LOL!
Then Abigail introduced me to these people.
Now, I will probably never have this music in any of my Spotify playlists, but please stop and think about this for a moment. I’m going to make a big jump here and say that if you are not willing to at least LISTEN to music outside of your comfort zone, perhaps you are not willing to listen to these people and what they have to say on a larger scale.
Opening your hearts to people groups and cultures outside your own could help you open your mind to other ways of thinking. Consider making time for that in your life.
Don’t be afraid. Be brave.