Friday, December 11, 2009

8 Memorable Musical Moments

Cycads tagged me. Can you believe that?! Cheh!

Anyway, this is a hard meme, you guys. ;_;

1) So, to begin with, I took piano lessons starting age 5 or so. We bought a piano that was a full eight years older, so yes, a piano that was older than me, second-hand. Every good middle-class kid had to learn how to play piano. My parents saw it as an opportunity they never had, my mum thought if I was ever out of a job, at least I could teach piano, and my dad figured that learning new things, which one does when capable of wielding an instrument, is a good thing to head off things like Alzheimer's. Either way, growing up, a piano in the house was a kind of marker, a cultural cue that one had arrived. I grew up with the usual stuff - Beethoven and Mozart, the former particularly, as my dad was very fond of the Pastoral. I never really felt very moved until we bought a CD with Tchaikovsky music, and this was the first track:



My soul was sold.

2) I was at some point the only one in my family who liked mainstream stuff, in particular the Scorpions. I had a few tapes (oh yes, those 8-track tapes!) of mostly Scorpion albums, and some other rock songs, like Bon Jovi. Ostensibly, these fellows at the pasar malam were selling soundtracks, but really, they're just mix tapes with a couple of the songs from the actual soundtrack. Great prices though. RM 10 for a tape? Not a bad price, all in all.

I played a lot of Scorpions. When I got my own room, I would turn on Scorpions really loud and sing. I never realized that people could hear me singing. The maids told me one day, laughing. I was deeply embarrassed. I tended to sing Rock You Like A Hurricane the loudest. (My favourite song was Rhythm of Love, which, in retrospect, is a pretty dirty song for a, 11-year-old to be singing.)



3) We had these old speakers which must have come from the 80's. When we bought a new Aiwa CD player, it had speakers of its own, and my brother eventually figured out how to hook the old speakers to the computer in his room (that was where our family computer used to be). It went downhill from there, and eery so often (and by every so often I mean "every night for several weeks"), this would blast from his room:

 

4) My brother was heavily into comics. Like video games, comics seemed to me, then and now, like something one had to have extraordinary love and patience for, because you only get an issue a month, and the stories don't necessarily end, which means you wait and wait for a story to resolve itself, and they went on forever. Video games at least end, but you still need the patience to figure shit out in games, learn how to play it, and get to the ending. I left the playing to my brother and watched him as he did. I also read a few comics he brought home. He had a lot. Of course, I particularly liked the comics which featured female main characters, such as Kabuki, and Shi, and Dawn, and I bought my very own Catwoman #0. I was also very fascinated by the Lady Death mythos.

My brother brought home a CD sample with the Megadeth track "She-Wolf". I have no idea how connected it is to the actual Lady Death comics (I know the artist has done work for 'Deth). But it did spark my interest in metal music. He bought an actual copy of the Cryptic Writings album, although I listened to it more often than he did. I went on to buy more 'Deth music, and most of the songs which resonate with me deeply then were from the Youthanasia album:



This song really resonated with me then, and funnily enough, it still resonates with me today - the anger and the disappointment, the lack of knowledge and acceptance that I just don't know anything, and the intrinsic hope: "I know that somewhere, someone hears my voice."

5) Around the same time, yet another comic/CD collaboration came Gary Numan's Sacrifice album, illustrated by Joseph Michael Linser who created Dawn. Gary Numan is known as one of the first electronica artistes out there, and his 1996 album is very much a huge comeback for him after almost a decade of kind of meandering around with different musical styles. His music tends to be gritty, angrily agnostic, but among all of that, there is this wonderful love ballad that he wrote for the woman who would become his wife:



6) My family was big into New Age music, because.... they were more relaxing than most of the other popular music available. As one might expect, we had Enya, and we had Loreena McKennit. We had a buncha weird stuff, as well as classical music. We also had a CD called Middle Kingdom, part of a series of Chinese-inspired, fusion world music. It's by Noel Quinlan, although to tell the truth I had no idea it was Australian at the time and thought it was something neat from China. The album features a song in which the poem, Hua Mulan, is recited and mixed into the body of the song. Appropriately titled Mulan, I recently discovered it has a music video, which I shall share with you:



It came out way before the Disney Mulan movie, and frankly, the Disney version doesn't do the actual legend much justice. We're generally lucky in Malaysia that when a new media fad comes out, like the Disney Mulan movie, our TV stations and newspapers will be filled with articles about the subject for a while. We watched several documentaries about the identity of Hua Mulan as a historical figure, we read newspaper features about Hua Mulan's impact on Chinese culture, and generally, we probably get stuff American media doesn't bother with. As another example, when Troy, the one with Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom, first came out, we were inundated with articles on archaeological expeditions about the search for Troy, historical documentaries about the location, so on so forth.

7) Somewhere along the line, way after I hit Canadian shores, discovering awesome bands like local indie rock bands (such as the Turnstiles; one of their members was a Rhodes Scholar - I knew him personally and he is a truly sweet person. He is now going solo), power metal bands like Nightwish, and basically catching up on a lot of North American pop culture that I missed out on in Malaysia (somehow, a lot of the garbage got filtered down to us, although I can't say I missed out on the punk music), I discovered I have a thing for the more flambouyant years of David Bowie, which I definitely missed. He and Queen. I mean, we knew of them in Malaysia but it wasn't really in our media and cultural consciousness? I particularly liked his Ziggy Stardust concept album. Not a fan of the Thin White Duke phase though.



8) I like the number eight. Random trivia, I know. Anyway, I can't finish this meme without an anime soundtrack song. I don't watch a whole lot of anime, but there are some which are memorable partly for their soundtracks. This is the hardest bit to choose from, because anime directors pick some really good composers to work with! Yoko Kanno did the soundtrack for Escaflowne and Cowboy Bebop, and it's incredible to hear the shift from high-flown orchestral music of Escaflowne's battle songs to the jazz of Cowboy Bebop, and I don't ordinarily like jazz at all! (It's true. I hate improvisational jazz, and volunteering at the Jazz Festival for the shows featuring the jazz workshops drives me insane.) Her band, the Seatbelts, have also done soundtracks for other notable animes, like Trigun (another of my favourites), Macross and Ghost in the Shell. Another notable composer is Joe Hisaishi, who does soundtracks for many, if not all, the Studio Ghibli movies and has also done work on many Asian films, like A Tall Chinese Story.

The main theme song for the Cowboy Bebop movie, "Knock A Little Harder" is just great - good music, good lyrics, and I think a lot of people can really resonate with the song, and I like to listen to it when I'm in a dark place. I'll embed one with the lyrics:



Wow, it's done! (It took me several days to work on this meme.) I didn't even get to post about my recent discovery of Scott Joplin, who wrote a lot of ragtime music, and ABBA and the Beatles and Butterfingers and, and, and, sigh.

Now, I have to tag someone else! Who shall I tag?! Hmmmm... I want to tag someone famous. Someone like Renee of Womanist Musings, even though there's probably very little chance she'll actually see this and do the meme, but I really respect her and want to know what her taste in music is like.

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