Bliss of Music

Music has been my passion since I was very young. The earliest music memory I have in terms of getting hooked is, my aunt gave me a record of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. I was a conductor of an imaginary orchestra in the stereo, using a chopstick. When I ask people what kind of music they like, many say, “I like all kinds of music.” Then they often add, “except country,” “except rap,” or “except heavy metal.” I actually did love just about any kind of music when I was growing up: Classical, Baroque, Medieval, Rock, Folk, Blues, some Jazz, Avant-garde, Celtic, Andean, traditional Japanese, Japanese folk (‘minyo’), Eastern European, Middle Eastern…

But rock music above all dominated my youth years. It started with the Beatles when I was in the 5th or 6th grade, then Pink Floyd, then prog rock like Yes, ELP, King Crimson, Procol Harum… Then I discovered Genesis in the early 70’s on my own. One of magazine articles reviewing an album caught my eyes; the word to describe their music was “mysterious.” None of my friends in my junior high ever heard of them, and I kind of kept it a secret, “it’s my band.” I remember going to a film concert in Tokyo by myself. Back in those days, there was no MTV, rock music on TV was very rare. It was the first time in Japan they ever showed anything Genesis with Peter Gabriel on film. Everyone in the small room was much older than me, like college-age, and they were crying. On the way back home on the subway, I was thinking, “music will be a big part of my life.”

I came to America to study music, but was not interested in becoming a musician or performer. I was more of a fan of British rock, but I thought since rock n’ roll originated from the U.S., it’d be good to learn the roots of rock music. One of the music teachers in Seattle Central Community College was a jazz musician, and he introduced me to the field of ethnomusicology. I got a B.A. in general studies with an emphasis on ethnomusicology from the University of Washington and went on to graduate school studying ethno (as we called it). I was there for years and years, but never finished my graduate degree—I look back now and feel it’s one of the blessings in disguise in my life, not getting caught up in Academia.

People often say they listen to music according to their mood. For me, it’s not my mood how I select what to listen to; I pick “right’ music for the particular time and place, like music for the movie to a particular scene. When I was much younger, I started a day very early in the morning with European Medieval music like David Munrow’s Early Music Consort. In the mid-morning hours, I chose Baroque like J.S. Bach, Vivaldi and Corelli. Then in the early afternoon, Classical composers like Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven seemed perfect. Later in the afternoon were for Romantic composers like Schubert, Mendelssohn and Rachmaninoff. Evening hours, I often chose impressionists and the early 20th music like Debussy, Scriabin and Stravinsky. Later at night, I picked more experimental or electronic music, such as Steve Reich, Terry Riley and Philip Glass. Basically, I went through entire music history in each day.

Nowadays, I hardly listen to music at home. Most of my listening enjoyment is in the car while I’m driving. I pick a tape (yes, I still use cassette tapes) and if it doesn’t feel right, I have to pick something else. When I’m driving very early in the morning, for some reason, I pick female country singers like Patti Lovelace, Trisha Yearwood and Suzy Bogguss. Celtic music also suits in the morning hours, such as Silly Wizard, Ossian and Planxty. Driving around in the afternoon, what feels right is mostly 80’s alternative music including Robyn Hitchcock, Crowded House, Billy Bragg and Richard Barone. When I’m driving on freeway, 80’s synthe-pop is perfect, such as New Order, The Cure, Depeche Mode and OMD. When I’m driving at night, I normally pick prog-rock such as Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Gentle Giant and Pink Floyd. Weather is also an important factor to select right music. When it’s raining, somehow Morrissey is perfect. Sunny summer days call for UB 40, Talking Heads and Green Day. Cocteau Twins and Lush are perfect for driving in a snowy or foggy envelope.

When I’m driving on the freeway at night, the moving sights of passing cars and city lights transfer me to another dimension. My favorite music, exquisitely matching its scene and frame, provides the soundtrack for the real-life “movie” I’m in—I feel totally blessed how much great music I have had access to and collected over the years. I also count my blessings for being able to connect with so many wonderful souls because of my passion for music.