5.25.2005

My Musical Influences

As a human musician, countless musicians have invariably shaped my musical interest, understanding, and output. I feel it my duty to acknowledge with a great deal of respect the outstanding figures in my own personal musical development. This extremely challenging endeavor will require me to limit my selections to only the major influences that I can label directly. I will list, in chronological order of my introduction to the artist/music, the artists that have directly affected my personal taste and output of music. Here goes everything…

Scott Joplin
Scott Joplin, Raffi, the Muppets, bedtime lullabies, and church music comprise my first musical memories as a child. However, none was more pervasive in my internal desire and enjoyment of music than the ragtime of Scott Joplin. Soon after my parents would tuck me into bed, they would set our primeval record player in the hallway playing The Sting soundtrack that included the music of Scott Joplin as performed by Marvin Hamlisch. The music kept me awake rather than causing me to sleep and my love of music was born and forever implanted at the fore of my dome. Of course, The Entertainer and Maple Leaf Rag were personal favorites but the gripping Solace remains one of my favorite compositions ever.

Musicality – 8

Influence on my performance – 7

Continuing/Current impact – 8

Overall love of - 8

Oldies, Chopin and Debussy
I hesitated to pick a genre of music but reflecting on my experience, the most important music of my formative years were “Oldies” (1950’s, 60’s and early 70’s) and the music of Chopin and Debussy. My father usually was singing Oldies along with the radio and my sister was quite often playing Chopin and Debussy on the piano. While I had no desire to perform Oldies or even Chopin/Debussy, the music undoubtedly influenced my musical hermeneutics. On many a Spring day, when the shadows of the window panes hit the floor just right, I’m quickly taken back to the sound and smell of my childhood home. That sound is always either Rain Drops or one of Chopin’s Nocturne’s. Also, random quotes from good times and great Oldies consistently pop into my mind and cause many awkward moments, usually going something like this: A guy named E will say something gross, someone else will say “Ewwww E, that’s gross.” I will then start dancing around and singing “Eww Eee Eww Ah Ah, Ting Tang, Walla Walla Bing Bang.” Cue the crickets. Alas, Oldies have instilled in me an inescapable love of 4/4 time and catchy melodies.

Oldies:
Musicality – Ranging but an average would be 6

Influence on my performance – 5

Continuing/Current impact – 7

Overall love of - 6

Chopin/Debussy:
Musicality – 9

Influence on my performance – 4

Continuing/Current impact – 5

Overall love of – 7

Weezer
What can I say? Weezer’s Blue Album is my favorite album of all time. The reasoning is simple. Weezer’s pop appeal combined with its Oldies-like melodies and guitar driven rock music was a timely component to my musical journey. As I was beginning guitar, the ability to learn simple, yet creative songs, was a redeeming aspect to listening. Furthermore, the Blue Album is the first album I listened to critically. While I still listen primarily to music and lyrics only as to how they work with the music of the song, I listened to the words of the album along with every production component. I can describe what instruments are used and how in every track. I completely dissected that album by listening to it every night as I was going to bed on my discman. While they lack in musicality or virtuosity, Weezer more importantly finds their own voice and conveys it as effectively and creatively as any other artist I have experienced. Weezer also blended a degree of reality to their music that I appreciate. Sarcasm, humor, depression, concern, heartache, love, redemption…it’s all there. The indie-like production of Pinkerton was a welcome addition to my musical collection. The Green Album was a much-anticipated release that caused great reactions of nostalgia and novelty upon a first and memorable midnight listen with my closest friends. Weezer’s music has been as much a corollary to my middle school and high school years as it has been to an eye-opening creation of music.

Musicality – 6

Influence on my performance – 5

Continuing/Current impact – 8

Overall love of – 10

Dave Matthews Band
While it seems to be a prerequisite for high school and college to listen to Dave Matthews, I use the geographical argument as my fallback. However, I have recently quit using that as an argument because I have absolutely no shame in citing Dave Matthews and the Dave Matthews Band as one of my main musical influences. Hearing his demo at an early age, hearing him playing in town early in the development of his band, and loving the releases of his albums through high school were valuable interactions between the music of this group and me. While I almost completely stopped listening to them after Before these Crowded Streets (a fantastically unique and well-produced album), I still enjoy the freshness, authenticity, and energy of the band.

Musicality – 5

Influence on my performance – 9 in high school, 4 currently

Continuing/Current impact – 5

Overall love of – 7

Funk
What is hip? Take for example Tower of Power, Average White Band, The Ohio Players, The Commodores, The Meters, George Clinton, Parliament, Kool & The Gang, Earth, Wind, and Fire, and Curtis Mayfield. At Governor’s School I fulfilled my interest in Funk by joining a killin Funk outfit we called Funk Nazty. Playing with advanced musicians at an early age was exciting, energizing, and inspiring. The main thing about Funk is that it is FUN! Not only is it fun but it is also generally creative and fairly reputable in terms of musicality. Most of it is very jazz-based, bass and drum driven, and made for live performance. I am partial to this genre because of my participation in a live band. Memories of performance are the reason I have to select the genre instead of one influential group. Nonetheless, Funk music is a central aspect of my musical interest and explains my love of underground hip-hop and jazz-based hip-hop.

Musicality – 7

Influence on my performance – 9

Continuing/Current impact – 8

Overall love of – 9

Agents of Good Roots
When I first became interested in what was beyond rock-music, I found funk music but still desired the need to rock out. AGR are another local group that have influenced me greatly. This band was incredibly creative while maintaining an ability to write catchy melodies. My constant impact to this point mind you remained melody and 4/4 driven (while interesting) rhythmically driven music. I loved AGR because Andrew Winn’s unique distorted nylon guitar sound with obvious jazz and classical influences started expanding my ears to what could be. I feel that AGR was the ear-opening group that connects my main musical interests. The groups/genres I have previously mentioned to the forthcoming ones. Also, AGR really kicked off my realization that music is meant to be played live. While I appreciate well-produced and creative studio work by groups, music is a medium that can evoke so much emotion when performed live. While the band eventually faded albeit great potential and opportunity, I remain loyal to their music and wish them the best. For some reason, this group, while most definitely a band, led me to listen to more and more alt-singer-songwriters. For example, an odd but direct extension of AGR was Jeff Buckley. His magnificent album Grace, one of the greatest albums of the 1990’s, seemed to have some sort of connection to the unique structuring of rock songs. I would not be surprised if AGR appreciate his work as much as I do.

Musicality – 8

Influence on my performance – 7

Continuing/Current impact – 7

Overall love of – 8

Monte Montgomery
My freshman-year college roommate introduced me to this Austin guitarist and songwriter. When I say guitarist I should specify by saying “mutant.” Monte led me to want to understand the guitar fretboard in its totality. While I do not consider him one of the most musical guitarist I have heard, he is endlessly creative and eternally able. Seeing Monte play an acoustic steel-string at warp speed with ridiculous passion was an encouraging sight and sound. While I have no desire to slash and play as fast as possible, Monte still had the ability to break out an amazing ballad, like his crazy good version of Romeo and Julliet. I spent a few years learning most of his tunes and solos to increase my soloing ability for standard progression music. Monte also led me to more musical and truly marvelous acoustic guitarists, Don Ross and Tommy Emmanuel, both of whom I have stolen many tunes and licks from.

Musicality – 6

Influence on my performance – 8

Continuing/Current impact – 6

Overall love of – 6

Wes Montgomery
In the movie Sweet and Lowdown, Sean Penn’s character is truly enamored with Django Reinhardt to the point that Django’s records cause him to sob uncontrollably. This is how I honestly feel when I listen to Wes. My love of melody and tone explains why I love Wes’ style over other famous jazz guitarists. I even have a hard time explaining my appreciation for his music in writing. His creative use of melodic variations, octave usage, phrasing, soul, and using only his thumb (like me) all contribute to the specific tone that I regard as the quintessential guitar sound. Thanks Wes. Beside Wes, I am most appreciative of Django, Joe Pass, and Joao Gilberto in terms of jazz guitarists.

Musicality – 10

Influence on my performance – 10

Continuing/Current impact – 10

Overall love of – 10

I notice many things from my list. If someone reads this, they still will not get a full picture of my musical influences. Where is the pop music? Where are the hymns? Where are the musicals? Where are those individual works like Palestrina’s Agnus Dei from the Pope Marcellus Mass? Another I note as a personal observation is where is the global music and music by females? Both have been influential but why don’t they make my most influential list? Nancy Wilson’s recording with Cannonball Adderly of Never Will I Marry may be in my top five favorite songs, but her music does not make my influences list. I am extremely interested in global music, specifically Bossa Nova and African indigenous music but these also do not make my most important list. My list is obviously guitar (lop)-sided whereas my general music listening is only slightly guitar-sided. I know I have forgotten many important and subliminal items and you may expect this list to change often. I wonder what will come in the future years. My ears are open as I hope yours are, too.

1 comment:

San Diego tommy tuck said...

Good comments. But, I do not agree with most of them. People sure have a lot of time on their hands.