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2005-03-28 - 6:58 p.m.

My Life Soundtrack:

Before school:
Mainly Sesame St. records. I had a horrible squeaky singing voice that made my parents think I would never be able to be in choirs.

Elementary school:
Oldies -- mostly 50's and 60's music that was on the oldies radio station. I remember singing "Rockin' Robin" loundly on the school bus with a friend in about 4th grade. Maybe 5th? I'm not sure. I was also exposed to a lot of older jazz and blues (Etta James is still one of my favorite people), some Motown and soul music (Aretha!), and some quality old country (Willie Nelson! Love!). I was in the All-City Youth Choir, so my voice had apparently progressed from the horrible squeaky to listen-able, and we were singing things like "Iko Iko" and "What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor" (remember, it's northern Michigan at this point. What would one do in winter but get darn familiar with alcohol?). I remember a friend making me listen to New Kids on the Block and wondering what the heck all the fuss was about. In 5th grade, I was introduced to the soundtrack to "Les Miserables" (yes, the musical), and memorized it completely and identified with Eponine as no boys ever liked her as much as stupid Cosette. Sad? Yes. Though it also led me to read the book (yes, I know. I didn't have any friends because I was a 5th grader who could read Victor Hugo's Les Miserables in a week. 1463 pages. I know.), which really is a masterpiece. And long.

Middle school:
More oldies. I hadn't really caught up to my peers when it came to popular music, and enjoyed the Beatles quite a bit. School dances were the only place I heard much current music, and so songs like "Nothing compares to You" and "2 Legit 2 Quit" were what I thought of as pop music. And I liked them, and cried a little when "Nothing Compares to You" came on and no one would dance with me. I remember MC Hammer. I also had the single of "Tarzan Boy" which I memorized because my friends and I had been using "Tarzan" as a code word for a boy I had a crush on. (Should I really be admitting this to the internet? Oh well...) I was in the choir at school and had no fear. I was always trying out for solos (notably when I tried out for the solo in "Somewhere Out There" -- yes, from the cartoon movie about the mouse that I never saw*), but never got them and then decided that I had a horrible voice so no one wanted to listen to me. Family and church people were always trying to convince me otherwise, but I was not convinced. I was also in band at this point (playing alto saxophone. I really wanted to play the baritone sax, but my jerk band teacher thought that at 4'5" I was too small. Jerk.) and was exposed to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" because we played it in a concert. Yes, that's right -- not because of "Wayne's World" (I've seen it by now, don't email me in horror), but because we played it in a band concert.

*My lack of experience with movies, including the movies that EVERYONE else saw, is a vast subject that may or may not be covered in future entries. I never have and still don't watch movies except for a few that I know and love but still rarely watch.

Early High School:
I was still out of the popular music loop and was only exposed to it at school dances and on marching band trips. I had to pee so bad one time while coming back from a band competition (wow, I'm not even trying, but I think I might be in the running for Biggest Dork Ever) and a friend made me listen to TLC's "Waterfalls" -- no, I did not pee my pants, but I wasn't very happy with the friend for a while either after that. Quick list of things I was exposed to first because we played them in marching band: the Blues Brothers theme song, Carlos Santana, Chuck Mangione, Earth Wind & Fire, Steely Dan. I know. Those of you who grew up with good musical taste are throwing yourself out the nearest window in horror. I promise, it gets better. I do develop taste. I was crushing pretty hard on some of the school jocks, so I bought the ESPN Jock Rock CD. Still embarrassed about that one. Please never bring it up around me. And I'm always reminded of it when I hear "Low Rider" because I was two months into having my drivers license and was rocking out (as much as dorky little me could rock out, at least) with my little sister and got into an accident. We weren't hurt, but I was TERRIFIED and I've never been able to listen to that song since. I had crappy choir teachers (this was a running theme until I got to college) who grudgingly moved me up from the everyone-can-get-in choir to the audition-only all girls choir (but not up to the elite choir). The only good part of my early high school choir experience is that I was introduced to the the choral works of Pablo Casals. That's right, the cello guy. He wrote some KICK ASS vocal music. Oh, and also -- throughout high school I kept getting into the State Honors Choir. So that was in conflict with my choir directors' assessment, but I still believed them.

Late High School:
By this point I had missed a lot of music. Some good and some not so good. I had missed Nirvana, Pearl Jam, all metal bands (I still have no clue about even such huge bands as AC/DC, Metallica, etc.). I was starting to listen to current radio (not necessarily a great way to be introduced to music as I now know), and so I was bopping along to "Breakfast at Tiffany's" "Kiss From a Rose" -- but also some stuff that I still like ("Glycerine" though I don't really like any of their other stuff, REM, some Smashing Pumpkins). I wasn't hugely into pop music, but I wasn't quite as clueless as I had been before. I hated band by this point because the director was militant and scared me (that's part of the reason why my little school won state band competitions every year, but it's also the reason I don't get any pleasure out of playing the saxophone anymore), and I dropped out of choir senior year because I hated the choir director so much. I continued to take voice lessons, but was still terrified of singing in front of people since the evil choir director had told me that I was "just not good enough for an elite choir like we have here" and maybe I should "think about doing more with instruments." Bah.

Early College:
I met my (future) husband the second day in the dorms. This was a major turning point in my appreciation of music. My soundtrack was made up of bands like Barenaked Ladies, Ben Folds Five, They Might Be Giants, Morphine, Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker, and so on. I can listen to a lot of these bands and remember really specific instances from college. It's almost scary to be standing on the el platform and then to suddenly be whisked off into my old dorm room with the little sink, the pull-out beds, and the glow-in-the-dark stars on the wall. I also gave up on band. I decided that I wasn't enjoying it enough to get up at 7:30am, but that I might give choir one last shot (4:30-6pm). I was expecting to be in the big choir for everyone that met once a week, and I thought there was an off chance I might get into the audition-needed one that led the music for Sunday chapel. But I ended up getting into the top one that toured and recorded. I got compliments from the choir director (a major influence on my musical life, and also the one who fixed some of my singing self-esteem problems) and ended up spending more time in music classes (at least 6 hours a week, usually more) than I had ever expected as a non-music major. But I also have many of my best college memories wrapped up in my choir time, so it was once of the better choices I've ever made. I started my J.S. Bach obsession at this point, and also fell in love with Eric Whitacre's work. Sixteen half-steps held perfectly in tune by fifty voices is one of the most amazing sounds I've ever heard.

Late College
Bach, more of most of the bands listed under the Early College section. I was starting to add a few different genres and somewhere around this time my (future, still) husband introduced me to alt-country -- Old 97's and Wilco mainly. Mmmm... alt-country... I listened to some Sarah McLachlan who I still like (like, not love), and some Cake as well -- this is also when I found the eels (always in the top 3 when I list favorite bands). I sprinkled a little Tchaikovsky into my normally fairly austere and choral-centric choices (some vodka-fueled Russian melodrama is fun for everyone!). I had also somehow missed Otis Redding while loving soul music. That was rectified. I also got to be in the chorus for a performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion that I'll never forget. I have to listen to all 3 1/2 hours of it every few months because it means so much to me.

Four months in Denver post-college:
I hated this time. There were things I didn't hate about it (I lived near a good friend from college, I umm... hmmm... well, about 3 months into it I was able to drive 1 1/2 hours to visit my (future) husband on weekends, ummm... yeah, that's it), but mainly I just look back on it as the point when I realized what I can and cannot handle. I can't handle working in a call center. I can't handle living alone. I can handle my car getting broken into three separate times, but I'm more than willing to complain about it A LOT. It's a bit odd, then, that I still like the music I was listenint to a the time. I do, though. Sometimes it's hard to hear because it does remind me of what I hated about that time, but the "O Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack, Cake, Son Volt, and Uncle Tupelo still get a lot of rotation in my Dell DJ.

One and a half years in Fort Collins:
This was more enjoyable. I still was fairly desperate to get back to Chicago, but I had friends, my (still future) husband, and a great church. I was listening to much of the stuff from my college years on still, and I was mixing quite a bit more alt-country into the rotation. I found Neko Case (I have a HUGE girl-crush on her -- Neko, if you're reading this, call me! We'll do lunch!), Lucinda Williams, Clem Snide, and Ryan Adams (apparently he's a bit of a snot if you see him in person, but "Heartbreaker" is such a brilliant album). I was working retail, selling audio equipment, and ended up listening to some absolutely wretched stuff at work. I would come home and sit reading in silence just to feel a little clean again. But I also listened to the Pixies, the Strokes, and the White Stripes, along with one of my favorite songs "I Love My Canoe" by Troubled Hubble.

The Wedding:
The wedding music was exclusively my husband's domain. He did a great job, too -- we got so many compliments on our mix CDs for when the band took breaks. But our first dance song was "That's How Strong My Love Is" by Otis Redding.

Back to Chicago - present:
I'm not listening to anything too different -- my interests have remained pretty constant from late college to now, but having my Dell DJ makes a huge difference in how often I listen. I can never find anything I want in our collective over-600 CDs (I probably account for under 1/5 of those, but the majority of them are bands I also like), but being able to get anything I want out of a little box is pretty cool. Recent additions to my soundtrack included Crash Test Dummies (remember how I missed the 90's?), the Fiery Furnaces, and the Flaming Lips. I also got the best birthday present ever last year when my husband surprised me with tickets to the Lyric Opera performance of Mozart's Don Giovanni! Loooove... Now I just need tickets to Carmen...

Wow, that was long. And filled with more blah, blah, me, me, me. But I hope it helped with a little insight into the randomness that is my musical taste.

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