Timberwoof Essays Music
My Tastes in Music

My tastes in music are far and wide-ranging. They make “Alternative” look like pop. If you were ask me to identify a single thread that runs through all my favorite music, I’d probably run off into some thicket of contradictory musical analyses and come out all covered with cuts and scrapes from the brambles. I can’t come up with some definitive test of whether I’d like some music because I like so much of it, and any definition would leave something out. So I’ll just list what I do and don’t like.

Music I Like

(Not a complete list)
Tallis Scholars. Anything medieval or Renaissance. Madrigals.
I grew up on recordings by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Neville Marriner conducting. He broke away from the romantic traditions and played the Baroque composers crisply and precisely. It was refreshing in its day, but I’m bored with him now. Let me throw Nigel Kennedy’s or Il Gardino Armonico’s recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at you. Ahhh, Bach! Yo-Yo Ma’s recording of the Cello Concertos is highly cool. I need a good gritty modern recording of the Brandenburgs: fuzzy bows, knocked-over music stands, and plectrums on the floor; I want revenge for the Duke of Brandenburg using the sheet music as coffee filters! And Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music delivers.
Beethoven is pretty cool. I’m digging John Gardiner’s Revolutionary and Romantic Orchestra’s recording of the Symphonies. I’m learning about Mozart. His music, like a sonnet, is delightfully predictable: The rules are in my head, though I could not tell you what they are.
Bluegrass. Irish traditional. Filk. Silly Wizard. Malicorne. Pierre Bensusan. It’s too bad there isn’t any respectable German folk music any more. The Nazis co-opted it all and everybody hates it … except for this obscure little folk band in Bavaria. Once we all get over all that Nazi Karma, we might get to see a German folk-music revolution to rival the Irish one. The material is there in the archives. It will just take folks who are neither hung up on the fat-guy-in-the-beer-hall and Oktoberfest Spoon-Dancing style of German folk nor adopting New Wave Kraftwerk Technohouse German Angst Music (Klaus Schultze) in reaction to that.
Steeleye Span! After thirty years they are still going strong. They are strong contenders for my all-time favorite musical group.
Beatles, Jethro Tull, 10,000 Maniacs, Cat Stevens, Moody Blues, Klaatu, Talking Heads, Crash test Dummies, REM, Alan Parsons Project, Roxy Music, Pink Floyd. Oh, the list goes on.
“New Age”
I liked music in this category before it had a name. Mannheim Steamroller, before they ran out of steam. Andreas Vollenwieder, before he ran out of steam. Shadowfax, before they ran out of steam. David Arkenstone, before he ran out of steam. Enya ... but she’s running out of steam. What’s going on with this musical form—is it really so limited that any musician runs out of new ideas after only half a decade?
It’s odd that our own music has its well-defined categories, and anything that comes from anywhere else on the planet is called “World” music. Phrases like “World Pop EthnoBeat” are way too trendy. I was liking outlandish music long before it became fashionable. Zamfir before he abandoned folk music and went schmaltzy-romatic on us. Mongolian throat-singing. Bulgarian. Balinese. Gyuto Monks.
In Amsterdam I found a record shop that specialized in classical and folk music. When I asked the proprietor about Dutch folk mucic, she sneered at me and said that this shop doesn’t carry that kind of music. Since when is our own folk music not worthy?

Music I Don’t Like

(Not a complete list)

I’m taking a risk here. I know that this list is going to offend somebody. Tough. You can’t expect the whole world to like the same things you like.

You can keep your schmaltzy Rachmaninoffs. Have you ever tried to sing this stuff? Conductors like to make flowery baton-movements to help choirs express the romantic feeling of the music, but they make it damn-near impossible to figure out where the beat is, and even with the most syrupy flowing expressive stuff, you still have to get your consonants in at the same itme as everyone else. Pianos trying to emulate the sound of bagpipes. Turned-On Classics.
Fat blonde German operatic baritones singing wholesome hiking-in-the-woods-collecting-Edelweiss Oktoberfest ballads. Anybody singing any folk music with Studied Operatic Voices. Orchestras playing Irish fiddle ditties. It’s time to rescue German folk music from the classical composers.
Country & Western
“I’m tired of hearin’ ’bout cheatin’ hearts, drinkin’ beer, and drivin’ trucks / I’m goin’ back to Beethoven ’cause Country Music Sucks.” I once saw a bumpersticker that read, “If it ain’t country, it ain’t shit.” Well, I have to agree. Selbst-verstaendlich! If it is not Country, it is not shit.
Laurence Welk, Muzak, Big Bands
Especially the kind that sounds as if a bunch of musicians are in the same room warming up. Why is it that this form of music has to be explained to me so I can like it, when just about everything else is self-evidently agreeable (or not, as the case may be) from the start?
Rock: Disco, Heavy Metal, Punk, Rap.
The insipid micromelodies and microrhythms of Disco are designed for people with the attention span of a can of Diet Coke. Heavy Metal was the Angry Rock of the ’70s. Punk was WhiteBoy Angry Rock of the ’80s. Rap is Black Angry Rock of the ’90s. Okay, fine. Express your anger, but don’t wake me up, okay? I’ll sing my English blood-and-gore love-ballads and revolutionary folk tunes, thank you.

My Tastes in Music. Revised September 5, 1998 and a little bit December 1, 2002.
Copyright © 1998, 2002 by Michael Roeder. All Rights Reserved.


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