My history with music is a twisted one. I’ve never studied music but I’ve paid attention to music all my life, starting from the collection of records and tapes in the house I grew up in, in Kansas City.
There was a Tina Turner tape in the house–Private Dancer. I’m not sure how it got there, but when I was five years old it was a favorite. I used to dance to it in the living room.
At age six my father snuck me into a Tina Turner concert. It was in a cabaret style bar in Kansas City called The Uptown. The Uptown was a 21+ venue, so my father explained to the doorman that I idolized Tina Turner, and he let us in for a couple songs. It was smoky, crowded, and darkly lit. I remember the attention in the room and the focus on the stage. Tina Turner wore heels and a red sequenced mini dress, and she changed into a different dress between each song. Her big hair and long legs strutted off stage and she would return in another mini dress, identical, but of a different color. First red, then blue, then gold. Thinking back it seems unlikely that she would change for each song, but this is how I remember it in my six year old mind. Her voice is hazy in memory, and I don’t remember what songs she performed, but I remember the mini dresses and the loaded mystique in the room.
Tina Turner wore heels and a red sequenced mini dress, and she changed into a different dress between each song. Her big hair and long legs strutted off stage and she would return in another mini dress, identical, but of a different color. First red, then blue, then gold. Thinking back it seems unlikely that she would change for each song, but this is how I remember it in my six year old mind. Her voice is hazy in memory, and I don’t remember what songs she performed, but I remember the mini dresses and the loaded mystique in the room.
I remember when I saw a Michael Jackson record for the first time. Someone brought it over as a present, it was Thriller. I was probably four years old. I remember opening the centerfold image and gazing at Michael, who was lying fully stretched on his side in a crisp white suit next to baby tiger. I would stare at this image for hours.
Recently at a dinner party, I met a German choreographer and classically trained cellist who started playing cello at a very young age. He took it seriously for most of his life but stopped playing a few years ago. He still has a penchant for going to the symphony, to see certain works performed. When he goes to see a particularly beloved piece, he is fascinated by the feelings that arise, that seem to take over himself and everyone in the room to the point of fetishism, in his own words.
My life changed dramatically when I was given my first tape / CD player for my own room. My sister and I were given these as presents at the same time and so we started developing our personal music collections. Zoe, being two years older, made wiser choices. The first tape I bought was MC Hammer, Please Hammer Don’t Hurt Em. Zoe bought Lush Gala and I would sit and listen to it in her room when she was off somewhere. It felt good to discover music this way. Like many children of the 80’s, I learned a lot from my sister’s music collection. Early on I had a Wham tape and a Prince tape, handed down from a friend, five years older–my mom’s best friend’s daughter. Ky had music that was unknowable to me apart from time in her room. I heard Kate Bush for the first time, and remember seeing a tape one day with the words Dogs in Space on the cover. I wanted to know what it was and learned it was the soundtrack to a film. I’ve never seen the film, but I remember this tape and the knowledge of things unknown that it revealed to me.
There were a couple good record stores in Kansas City and a lot of local bands. Things that I could only learn about when I left the midwest became precious. My mom took me on trips to New York City where I discovered Project X magazine, X-Girl and XLarge, Tokion, and Purple magazine. On summer trips to Greece I learned about new music. The tv in my grandmother’s apartment in Athens played MCM, and I saw Daft Punk’s Around the World video for the first time on my yiayia’s tv set.
When I got a little bit older, MTV’s 120 minutes and Yo! MTV Raps was generally how I kept up with music. In high school I spent a lot of time in my room listening to music while drawing or making collages. This is a feeling I like to bring back now when making music–a nothing to do feeling, except listen to sounds and make things.