Too Much Music?

My wife thinks I have way too much music. Right now there’s just over sixteen hundred titles sitting around our house. While she feels it’s a little overwhelming I tend to think of it as just a really good foundation. Because you just never know when you’re going to be in the frame of mind for some Reverend Gary Davis, Richard Thompson or early Connie Smith. Even with the catalogue on my shelves there’s always something that comes to mind that I don’t have. 

            Music has been one of my major passions for as long as I can remember. I’m old enough to remember everything from the old 45 rpm records, to the vinyl album, the eight track cassettes, the smaller plastic cassettes, the compact disc, digital audio tapes, and right into MP3s. When I think about all that I don’t feel old. I feel gifted. I’ve been alive and conscious for parts of six musical decades. What a wonderful soundtrack for a life.

            I’ve collected music for most of those decades. When I was younger and on the move a lot, I left a lot of collections behind whenever I changed cities. Some recorded titles I’ve owned at least a half dozen times over the years. Nowadays, I’m more settled and the collection is growing steadily. My wife says that there’s more music around than I can possibly listen to. But I’m a stubborn cuss when it comes to tunes and I like to think I could find a way to hear all of it.

            Being fifty-six means I’ve heard a lot of music. My collection runs the gamut from gospel, blues, jazz, R&B, soul, country, bluegrass, classical, reggae, world music and good old rock’n roll. There’s no heavy metal in there and very little hip hop. I collect what I want to hear all the time. There’s music from the 1920s that was created well before my time that just feels good every so often. There’s music in other languages that fits perfectly into unpredictable moments in a day.

            To me music is magical. They have to create it out of thin air for one thing, and because of that it can’t be touched or seen. It’s meant to be heard and only after the experience of hearing it can you feel it. Air moving. That’s what it is. It’s the only art form that exists solely on the experience of it and the fact that there are so many textures, hues and musical shapes makes it even more magical. It can be touched but it can fill a room. Magic.

            I can’t think of any part of a day that can’t be made better by filling the air with music. I’ve sat and looked at thick morning fog with Glenn Gould playing piano in the background and felt like I had never known fog before. I’ve stared at a sunset while listening to Lightnin’Hopkinsand understood what celebration was all about. Or lying in complete darkness while Emmylou Harris sings fills the night with color. Only music can lend itself to such varied situations.

            I can’t think of any life occasion that can’t be elevated by the presence of music. I sang a song with a hand drum at my wedding and that song still moves me to joyful tears. Driving down a late night highway always brings me back to cruising with Dire Straits’ first album blasting. Birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, family gatherings, get-togethers with friends and more have all been made more memorable with great music in the background. To hear those songs is to revisit old territories.  

 Only when I write do or I’m out on the land do I insist on total silence. There’s a different kind of magic happening then and I respect it too much to think I could add to it in any way. But every other time is wide open for some kind of sound and our house is generally a pretty groovy place to be. We have the musical alphabet pretty well filled in from Aaron Copland to ZZ Top and all stops in between.

            I like to know that I can move from Hank Williams say, right into Duke Ellington if I feel like it. I like to know that I can listen to a largo from a symphony and then leap right into a classic chorus from Lou Reed, Buffalo Springfield or Muddy Waters. What’s a little thing like storage space when you can have all that music?

            Too much music? I can’t imagine it really. There’s always an occasion for some kind of sound and the soundtrack of my life is filled with awesome music behind every memory. You just never know when Howlin’ Wolf will make a meal special or a kiss made memorable by Diana Krall.


About Richard Wagamese

I am a published author with 13 titles published by major Canadian publishers. I am a First Nations person from the Ojibway Nation in Northwestern, Ontario, Canada. As a professional writer since 1979 I have written for newspaper, radio television, magazines and book publishing. I love the culture of books and the people who populate it. 2012 recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media & Communications. View all posts by Richard Wagamese

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