Peter Returns to Music

(Strap in for a very interesting column today. I had to leave a lot on the “cutting room floor”, but I hope you’ll find the journey worth it in the end.)
Some say that music took its first baby steps when Grok banged a rock against a hollow log, or against Gork’s a) head. b) As civilization blossomed, a basic framework for music was established and rules of composition were composed. Growing intelligence, innovation and industry led to the development of musical instruments. Some faded away to obscurity pretty rapidly, (exhibit number one, the krumhorn) while others still exist in modified form, such as the sackbut, which is a form of trombone and is available for purchase on line.

Technology has also played a major role in the process. Electronics, (hell, electricity itself!), advances in materials and also computerization have transformed, for example, the humble pianoforte into the mainstay of so many musicians, so many bands that it has become! It’s entirely possible now, (and has been for years by the way), to make music without even using an actual musical instrument.
The music delivery platforms have also evolved. Although the world is 6,000 years old c), we have only had the means to listen to recorded music for a fraction of that time, as Thomas Edison did not invent the phonograph until 1877. Although there had been some experimentation going on prior to this, before the phonograph, the only way you could previously get your music fix was in real time, baby d)! Again, technology has rendered such massive change in the course of time, going from cylinders to records to compact discs to MP3s and beyond. ( “Help, my smarterthanIphone has turned into an orchestra pit! Yours might too! “) Change is constant and it is everywhere.
And look at the way in which the music is delivered to our ears. First came the phonograph, then the Victrola, then the record player itself, then the hi fi stereo system e), then the portable tape player. SONY had one of these, which weighed slightly less than a pound and was rather bulky. I am going to digress here for a moment because the game was about to be massively altered! The co-founder of SONY, Masaro Ibuka did a lot of business travelling and got tired to lugging this thing around just to listen to music. He therefore approached a senior board executive and asked him to design not a fully functioning tape player, but a smaller, lighter version which could only playback music and employed headphones. Ibuka took the finished product to Akio Morita, Chairman touting this idea and the revolution had arrived. f)
With the advent of inexpensive means of toting about private, portable music, everything changed musically. CD players, then MP3 players, then the aforementioned smartphones all came into prominence. (You will note that I have not even touched on developments in car stereo or boom boxes, or speakers or soundboards or You Tube or Instagram but there are a lot of amazing facts out there to be discovered! Google is your friend.)
Music is a very important part of the lives of most people. There are is some “core” music, such as “Happy Birthday” or “Auld Lang Syne”. These songs are timeless and pretty much everybody sings at least one of them at least once a year. The same applies to Christmas carols, religious music (for some) and national anthems. This music, however, by its very ubiquity, is not really “popular music”, at least as far I am concerned.  I consider it to be more “the elevator music of Life”, not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.
There is also a solid foundation of great music underpinning the whole scene. For example, classical music is, in general, timeless. (As I write this column, I am listening to some Bach harpsichord compositions. People will be listening to Bach until the end of time, and to Beethoven and to Mozart and to Gounod too.)
Each succeeding era usually has a prevalent genre of music, such as Baroque, Jazz, Ragtime, Big Band and these genres deliver their own staples of greatness. Consider just a few of the many, including the Blues, Folk, Country, Punk and dare I write it…Rock. g)
(I will address Rock in a little more detail here and have a column coming soon which will examine it in even more detail. For now, this will have to suffice. )
One of the beauties of music is its power. Everybody has been in a bad mood and promptly had that mood lightened just by hearing a favourite song on the radio. A song can take you back to a specific point in time, For example, whenever I hear (albeit rarely these days) the song “Abergavenny” by Shannon h), I am transported back to the summer of 1969 and I’m riding in the backseat of my brother-in-law’s car, sitting beside my dear late sister Mary, with that song playing in the background. I’m sure that most, if not all of you, have similar memories.
Now it’s all well and good to let a musical piece rekindle a memory for you. There was a lot of great music created in the past all across the spectrum of music. And, if for example, you are a classical music fan, obviously you will want to listen to as music of this genre as you can, and there’s no sin in that. The same goes from fans of Country, Jazz, Hip Hop, et cetera.
However, the people whom I do have trouble understanding are what I call FIAs i). These are the people, and we all know one or two, who insist that no good music was written after 1975 (for example), and refuse to listen to anything newer than that unless it’s a band whose sound reminds them of “the good old days”.
I don’t understand them, and in fact, I feel sorry for them. They are denying themselves the opportunity to hear some outstanding music. Sadly, they equate the state of contemporary music with that which they hear on much of the mainstream radio/TV stations or bassly thumping from a car or when they watch one of the various iterations of “Tiny Talent Time For Adults” which have been rudely thrust upon an unsuspecting world.
These people claim that “There is no good contemporary music out there!” I am here to dispute that claim. I have probably caught about 1000 sets since I started back going to shows in 2013. Seriously, I could count the number of all those sets that were not very good on the fingers of one hand and I’d still have enough fingers free to use an ATM and make a cellphone call. Toronto positively teems with great bands. They have a wonderful indie music scene which I’ve often equated to an extended family. They’re cooperative, supportive of each others’ activities and all in all, just a swell group of people.
You have a large group of well educated, well read, thinking, questioning songwriters who are not afraid to “colour outside the lines” or confront issues such as racism, homophobia or mental health when they are composing. They write straight from the heart, their songs generally weave a lyrical story which touches most, if not all, of the people in the room. Whether there’s an audience of six people or whether there’s an audience of six hundred, they play with the same intensity, the same passion. They welcome bands from out of town, out of province, even out of the country and many friendships are formed based on a mutual love of music.
These folks get out and tour too, and not just to Mimico. They cross Ontario and they cross Canada to bring their music to the people. They venture south of the border and they even cross oceans to take this great indie music to those who need to hear it, who need some positivity in an ever gloomier world.
This truly is a “golden age” of music. Every night in Toronto alone you can see great musicians playing great music in any one of our numerous venues. I aver that the only differences that exist between an indie show and what you would see at your local big box venue are a) the price of admission and b) the size of the sound system.
A great way to get exposure to different indie musical genres is to attend music festivals. Toronto is blessed with a number of these throughout the year, and next month heralds the annual arrival of “Canadian Music Week ” in our fair city. The launch party will be held at the Phoenix Theater on Monday, May 6th. While we at DBAWIS will be doing our best to give you coverage of this busy week, if you are in Toronto at the time and like indie music, do your ears a favour and buy a wristband. “Get your music fix in real time, baby!”
For my part, I hope to, among others,  be able to run into my “Grease Coast friends”, Andre Pettipas and the Giants. They will be appearing at CMW and are recording a new album at the end of May in Toronto.
Remember, there is lots of great music being created all around us all the time, and just because we don’t hear it on mainstream media doesn’t invalidate its significance in any way, shape or form. Look into all these fine indie musicians that we write about. I may see you at “Canadian Music Week”. I’ll be the olde guy by the bar trying to cadge drink tickets.
See you soon
a) Name changed at the request of our legal department. ( Just see if I ever show them my work before it’s published again! )
b) This scenario, of course, is fanciful, loyal reader.
c) Mandatory creationist humour
d) Loosely based on the motto of the F-14 Tomcat, i.e. Anytime, Baby! ( Anything to sneak in an aircraft reference.)
e) The one at our house was carefully guarded, and it was regarded as a sign of approaching adulthood to be entrusted with its operation.
f) Summarized from the July 01, 2009 issue of Time Magazine. Story Walkman, author Meaghan Haire. Found online. This is a very interesting article.
g) I guess I did.
h) One alias of an English singer/songwriter who released this song in England in 1968 under the stage name Marty Wilde. Released in North America in 1969.
I) Flies In Amber

2 Responses to “Peter Returns to Music”

  1. Bettie Whipple Says:

    Really interesting and well written, Peter. Began loving all kinds of music when I was 5 and added dancing to it at 10-lifelong mental and life saver many times–still listening in my dotage now! Thanks for including me in the reader’s of your fun columns.

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