Monday, January 9, 2012

The Music of My Life

There was a time when the very first thing I did upon entering a room was to switch on the stereo. If I started a new job, one of my main concerns – more important than salary and vacation – was whether I was allowed to have a radio at my desk. I was plugged in long before the invention of the iPod, thanks to my then-state-of-the-art Sony Walkman, which blasted rock-and-roll to pump me up before going to my dead-end job. And of course I sang along with everything, usually at the top of my lungs.

But over the years, there was gradually less and less music in my life. Once married, there was someone else to consider when choosing whether or not to pump up the tunes in the living room. When the kids came along, Raffi and Disney replaced the more raucous offerings I favored. My present job is such that I need a level of concentration that song lyrics unfortunately interfere with. And although I went through a brief period of belting show tunes, much to my family’s dismay, my singing has now been relegated to the car and the shower.

Frankly, I miss the music. 

So one of my New Year’s REVolutions is to bring more music back into my life. But there’s no revolution in listening to the same stuff I blasted in the 80s. No, I want to explore all sorts of music genres – from folk to hip hop, country to classical. 

I’ve approached this a couple of different ways so far. First there was the Car Radio Experiment.

I decided that every time I got into the car, I’d randomly tune my radio to a new station on the dial and listen to whatever it had to offer for the duration of my drive. I’ve done this three times so far, and all I can say is that I’m grateful I have a short drive. 

The first station I tuned into was WBAZ “Lite on the Bays” broadcasting from somewhere in the Hamptons. During my blessedly short journey, I had the opportunity to hear an interview with one of the popular, intellectually challenged female cast members of the Jersey Shore. I believe it was Snooki, but since I find them fairly interchangeable, it might have been J-Woww. The topic was her current boyfriend and why he was the perfect guy for her. One of the interview questions was whether she had ever hooked up with Paulie (one of the popular, intellectually challenged male cast members), to which she responded that she didn’t remember. Well, there it is then. By the time I reached my destination, she was attempting to explain this memory lapse while the DJ and his sidekick made snide innuendos and yukked it up. No music crossed the airwaves during my drive time.

Station #2 was WBAB, billed as “Long Island’s #1 Rock Station.” (Although I do not live in Long Island, most of the strongest radio signals seem to come from across the Sound.) It was my great fortune to tune in during their wildly popular “Hot Girls, Babe of the Day” segment. From what I could gather based on the hilarity in the studio, that morning’s “hot girl” (or was she the “babe of the day”?) was about to earn a significant sum of money for exposing her breasts. Now, there is nothing so lame as listening to someone get naked. And yet apparently this show has a huge following. When I got to my appointment and switched off the radio, I believe an actual piece of music had begun to play. Something I used to listen to on my Walkman.

The last station I listened to was WLNG, “America's Original Oldies Station Since 1963.” I do believe they are still working from their original playlist. Except now the songs are interspersed with local news. And I do mean local. As in “John Doe’s funeral will be held on Tuesday at 9:30 at Our Lady of the Oldies Church.” That local. I switched off the radio morosely, suddenly stricken with a somber mood.

There are many more radio stations I could listen to, but to talk a little baseball here, “Three strikes and you’re out.” So it was on to Plan B: Spotify.

According to its website, Spotify is a digital music service that gives you access to millions of songs. I had noticed my Facebook friends posting the tunes they were listening to a few months back, but hadn’t had an opportunity to explore it myself. Now I did, and I liked what I saw … and heard! I downloaded the appropriate software and soon was well on my way to exploring music of every genre. I even searched “angry music” one day when I was pissed off, and found a few playlists others had compiled and shared. The music on them was satisfyingly irate and allowed me to get out my rage in a non-felonious way. Now THIS is more like it!

The only thing I am dissatisfied with so far is that to listen on my iPhone requires a subscription. Since I don’t spend very much time in my car, I will have to decide whether it makes sense to pay $9.99 a month for mobile Spotify. But it may be worth it just so I never again have to listen to another interview with the Jersey Shore cast, hear someone exposing herself to a DJ, or receive an on-air invitation to the funeral of some anonymous Long Islander. Stay tuned!


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