Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Hobbies: Music Stuff

I come from a family of music makers/appreciators.  Everyone either had music they listened too, instruments they had taken lessons for or still played, a choir they had sung in or still did, or some/all of the above.

I started taking piano lessons in, as far as I can tell, June 1988.  I started learning trombone in 5th grade, but I was only in band through 8th grade.  (No regrets about not marching in high school - I am way too heat-sensitive for southern Indiana summers.)  At school I did choir in 7th and 8th grade, and I joined the church choir around then (and did that through the end of high school).  I sang alto then, although if I actually did voice lessons now and worked on my upper range, I'm probably a mezzo-soprano; my speaking voice is just at the bottom of my range.  Anyway, this works out to that I've been comfortable reading music on the treble and bass clefs since grade school, and I've been playing an instrument for 35 years now.

The new piano means I've been playing a lot more than I had the past decade or so, and I spent a chunk of this summer re-memorizing the first movement of Moonlight Sonata.  Now I've pulled out the Christmas books to get some thing back up to speed.  I like piano as a hobby because playing nowadays can serve a variety of purposes - stress relief, technical challenge, creative outlet, social connection.  I have a short list of pieces I want to learn to play that are challenging for me ("Raindrop" Prelude, "Clair de Lune," "Memories of Green").

As a listener, I was drawn early to Beethoven - not through piano lessons, but through a record with the "Consecration of the House" overture on one side and "Lenore III" on the other.  I used to roller skate to them in my parents' basement. My interest in playing Beethoven's works stems from that record, rather than the other way around.  Most of my cassette purchases were classical music, and my first CD purchase was a Beethoven one with those two overtures.  When I got a radio, I started listening to the oldies station - 1950s and 1960s music primarily, and I would turn it to the local NPR affiliate for overnight.  I used to listen to Pipe Dreams every week until I moved somewhere that didn't carry it.  (I have since discovered their streaming option, but I wish it was available on a podcast platform; it would be much easier to listen to in the car.)  Dad got Mom a CD of Dark Side of the Moon the same year I got a CD player for Christmas, which meant it soon spent a six-month stretch on repeat in my room.  (Instrumental Pink Floyd is still some of my preferred writing background music.)

I recently started listening to Minnesota Public Radio's "Song of the Day," which is available as a podcast and thus easy to catch up on in the car, which has introduced me to a variety of new-to-me musicians, like Hermanos Gutierrez and Philip Selway's solo work.  And of course there's satellite radio - when I started commuting for 40 minute stretches at a time, through hilly country that I couldn't get a consistent radio signal, we got me a satellite radio subscription, and then a lifetime subscription when Sirius and XM merged (I don't think they offer them anymore).  I do miss one of the old XM alternative stations for the new music they did, but they added a new music segment a few years ago on the Sirius-XM equivalent stations.  That generally drives my music purchases, because sometimes I really like songs that don't make it into their regular play.

I still buy things on CD - partly because of things like the demise of Google Play Music, and partly because if I want to listen to something in the living room, I put it in the CD player.  I don't regularly buy LPs - we have two functional record players, but neither has great sound, and we haven't yet set up the stereo system in the living room to hook up a better turntable.  One day.

As a hobby, listening to music is a very flexible one, and easy to stack on top of other activities: writing, gardening, sewing, cooking - most things that don't already involve listening to something; and stackable is appealing as a hobby when you already have too many.  Piano brings a lot of value to the time I put into it, but it's not something you do while doing something else.  (Recording Bach's Prelude in C, though - that feeds the listening hobby and is a very satisfying/de-stressing piece to play.)  I can't drive in a silent car or I will start singing, and I will wear out my voice with the commute I have, so I do a lot of listening.

Speaking of car listening - besides the satellite radio, I used to use Google Play Music for playlists of music I owned.  With its demise, I thought I would have to go back to just random mp3s off a USB drive, but I've since started using VLC for Android.  It's not perfect - sometimes after an update, it will wipe playlist content, so I try to duplicate them on my computer if they're lists I care about (and not just, 80s music, which is pretty easily recreated).  But it also has shuffle all options and 100 most recently added items.

Both listening to and playing music are hobbies I anticipate keeping for the foreseeable future.

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