I’ve always been a little jealous of conventional relationships between parents and their offspring regarding music taste. I’ve read and conducted many interviews with musicians who claim that their parents got them into the style of music they now play, or at least were influential in setting them off down that path. I’ve had countless more conversations with friends and acquaintances on the same topic, also referencing older siblings and friends. Either they heard a song and a family member has handed them a record which changed their life, or they leeched off said relative’s collection after a particularly impressive album cover. In my case, it was a little different.
Growing up, my earliest memories of music were Meat Loaf, Enya and Jean-Michel Jarre; make of that what you will. My parents’ tastes in music are so polar opposite they may well contribute to the earth’s axis spin. So instead of drawing from their tastes directly, what my parents actually imparted to me were lessons regarding how to discover, appreciate and discuss about music.
My father’s background is classical and opera, specifically Mahler, Holst, Verdi and that ilk. He also dabbles in old ambient/electronic genres, the broadly-termed ‘world music’ section, and has a smattering of progressive rock bands in his library (Pink Floyd, Supertramp). He will occasionally seek out new music within his chosen interests, but by and large he is closed off from the crowd. To this day he still cannot name the four Beatles, and most references to modern music result in a blank stare. I can count about 5 bands we overlap on.
What he taught me was to form your own opinion on music, and seek out new stuff by yourself. It’s all well and good to work off recommendations from friends, but very often the absolute gems are discovered while hunting either online or offline. In the few times we’ve discussed music recently, he’s often mentioned an artist or album he came across from browsing the internet, and while I can safely say my consumption of new music outstrips his by a long shot, I subconsciously picked up his method of building my own taste from scratch. Most of the music I listen to, whether extreme metal, abstract hip-hop or ambient drone, has come from exploring related artists and genres on various websites and forums, and only a part informed from friends’ recommendations.
As I mentioned, my parents’ tastes in music are polar opposite. My mother, as far I have been able to gather on our talks on music, is an open-minded and easy-going sort who’s quite content with sticking the radio on (usually tuned into BBC Radio 2). Most of the music she gravitates to falls under the pop or rock banner, particularly from the 70s and 80s; ABBA, Meat Loaf, Bruce Springsteen and the like. She later informed me that she has a soft spot for prog rock, but I was completely unaware of that growing up. I find it extremely amusing, then, that I discovered Marillion independently of her, and we both own their records.
My mother’s influence taught me another valuable side to music: that of tolerance and compromise. She can tolerate a fair amount of my music taste – up to a point with metal at any rate – and enjoys much of the melodic stuff I put on, but I still have to be considerate when I have control of the stereo. While I may be delighted at this year’s Slugdge or Cattle Decapitation albums, she is probably not quite so enthusiastic to hear them. I inherited a ‘live and let live’ philosophy from her, that not everybody will appreciate the styles of music I tend towards and that’s perfectly fine. With those who are willing to learn my music taste, I’ll happily provide examples; with those who aren’t, there are plenty of other genres out there to discuss and share in, and thanks to my curiosity, I consider myself decently-versed in a broad spectrum of what music has to offer. Still working on the classical though.
Whether it was intentional or not, my parents set me on a path of discovery, and music now forms an integral part of my life and identity, as well as my jobs as a music publicist, journalist and editor. My path has certainly been unconventional, but I’m still grateful for the education they gave me, both the songs that remind me of my upbringing (which I still listen to) and the lessons they (inadvertently?) imparted to me. This piece, in a way, is a thank you to them.