My grandfather is turning 85 this weekend — he was in born in Berlin in 1926, and he came to the US when he was 11, in 1937. That was a hell of a long time ago. I don’t know if any of you have experienced something similar to this, but every time I sit down with him and chat or, more likely, listen to one of his thousands of stories, I get this incredible feeling where I can see a huge part of myself in him. Like, this man is definitely my grandfather. We’re different people from extraordinarily different backgrounds, but at the end of the day, way at the core, it’s almost as if we’re the same person. It’s bizarre.
Like me, my grandfather loves music. But unsurprisingly, our musical tastes aren’t so similar. Almost exclusively, he listens to classical music. Piano, orchestra, opera, waltzes, and on and on. I couldn’t even name all the subgenres, let alone the composers. Classical music is beautiful, and I love it too, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to it with entirely the same ear that he can. And when it comes to the music I listen to, well…he doesn’t listen with any ear. The music my parents grew up with — the music I call oldies — wasn’t around until my grandfather was almost 40. And hip-hop only began to appear when he was in his 60s. Like generations before him, my grandfather grew up listening to classical music. It’s what he knows and it’s what he loves. Here’s one of Chopin’s amazing Nocturnes. Ever stressed out? Throw this on and watch it melt away.
So, as I was saying, my grandfather never enjoyed the music my parents grew up with. I remember hearing stories of my grandparents giving my aunt shit when she was a teenager for listening to Simon & Garfunkel and Bob Dylan. (Are you kidding me?!) But, like fate, my parents don’t enjoy the music I listen to. Admittedly, I’d be more than a little taken aback if I caught my dad listening to Biggie…or even Andrew Bird to be honest. But still, why is that? I like to think that I’m pretty open-minded about music, but what will I be listening to when I’m 40? Or 60? Or 85? Will I enjoy the new music of my kids’ generation, or will I think it sounds like crap and wonder how on earth they do it? A related South Park clip where Randy (one of the fathers) tries to prove to himself and his wife that parents can enjoy the newest rage in music that their kids are listening to… (If you don’t like poo jokes, skip this one):
Haha god that clip always puts a smile on my face. Anyways. A few months ago I got new headphones, and I was back at home visiting the family and my amazing dog. My dad wanted to try the headphones out, so I thought just for kicks I’d throw on some, err, electrofolkstep and see how he took it. The James Vincent McMorrow dubstep remix posted in april. He could barely take 30 seconds before telling me to put on some “real music.” I succumbed and threw on Led Zeppelin.
Surprisingly, I’ve made progress introducing my mom to hip-hop. She most definitely doesn’t listen to it or know the names of any artists, but I was able to break down one of the biggest barriers — that mass rejection of hip-hop on the grounds that it is just vulgar, or violent, or mindless. I took her to my room and brought up the lyrics to 2Pac’s Dear Mama on my computer screen. I didn’t play the song for her initially, I just had her read them.
Pour out some liquor and I reminsce, cause through the drama
I can always depend on my mama
And when it seems that I’m hopeless
You say the words that can get me back in focus
When I was sick as a little kid
To keep me happy there’s no limit to the things you did
And all my childhood memories
Are full of all the sweet things you did for me
And even though I act craaazy
I gotta thank the Lord that you made me
There are no words that can express how I feel
You never kept a secret, always stayed real
And I appreciate how you raised me
And all the extra love that you gave me
I wish I could take the pain away
If you can make it through the night there’s a brighter day
Everything will be alright if ya hold on
It’s a struggle everyday, gotta roll on
And there’s no way I can pay you back
But my plan is to show you that I understand
You are appreciated
MP3: “Dear Mama” – 2Pac
It’s real, honest, heartfelt poetry, and she saw that. But when I played her the song, no matter how powerful the lyrics, it just wasn’t something she could sit down and enjoy.
Is the ability to enjoy new music quashed by age? And if so, why? I heard a statistic somewhere that if you’re over 35 years old when a new genre of popular music comes about, there’s a 95% chance you’ll never listen to it. This might be a nonsense statistic, but it actually sounds kind of true. It makes me wonder, though, how and if the internet might change this. Discovering and exploring new music is easier than it ever has been. It’s leaps and bounds easier for us than it was for our parents, and even more so compared to our grandparents. There’s definitely a social aspect of learning to enjoy new types of music. That is, you’re more likely to give music a chance if you have people around you listening to it and enjoying it themselves. Maybe that environment has historically been harder to come across as you age, but perhaps the existence of social media might change that.
It’s hard to imagine what music will be out there when I’m 85. Maybe I’ll still be truckin, giving the iTunes its daily injection of new music. Or perhaps I’ll longingly look back on the days when electrofolkstep reigned king…