At Christmas, I received a portable turntable stereo as a gift – something I had wanted for a long time, but it wasn’t a necessity- and so I had put off buying one. A few days later, I realized the gift wasn’t in the actual record player – it was the collection of music that I inherited from my parents and grandparents. Some of it, I was already familiar with – there was top 40 music from the 80s, K-tel compilations, a bunch of punk records my brother used to listen to, a ton of classical music that was mine- scourged from library sales and used book and record stores, and some of it was stuff I remembered my parents playing, from when I was a kid – Joni Mitchell, Simon and Garfunkel, Miriam Makeba, Harry Belafonte, and Broadway musicals. But mixed in with those beloved treasures – are records that I never expected to find. Chestnuts such as Pupi Lopez and his Orchestra (see photo), something that can only be listened to on a July evening -while cooking hotdogs under the patio lights – with a fizzy pink drink (or cold beer) in hand. Music that instantly makes you smile because you must dance, and must drink, and must laugh, and must drink some more. Music that requires a celebration.
I regard music as its own activity. When its playing, I sit and actively listen to it. I don’t often do other activities when I am listening. Sometimes I will walk – but I don’t listen to music when I’m working, it’s too easy to stop working and only pay attention to what I am listening to. Of course I will play music when I’m dancing- but that isn’t really listening is it. I don’t purchase music for purposes other than listening. And I had forgotten that there was a time, when that is how one listened to music. You would gather your friends over – and listen (and probably dance) to the new Elvis record- or what have you. Pupi Lopez reminded me this morning, that I need to learn to enjoy music on a different level. A social level. Listening is not a solitary activity. I can only imagine that my grandparents had a good time when they listened to music (if this was a staple of their collection). And I know that my parents did too – I certainly remember them throwing parties with my dad breaking out his record collection – and they and their friends would dance up a storm in our basement.
I dont have room to throw dance parties or backyard BBQs – but there is no reason why we can’t have a bit of fun. No reason that Wednesday evenings have to be spent listening to Coronation Anthems, and Flute Sonatas, and Fantasias. We can throw a bit of cha-cha music on, just for fun.