Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hidden Dimension

Death notices of entertainment figures (here I have Billy Taylor in mind) remind me forcibly that I’ve lived my life as if a vast sector of modern culture did not exist at all. I do believe I know far more about Tibet, ancient and modern, than I know about pop music no matter the genre. Music is an incredibly vast universe of experience, but I know next to nothing about it. My acculturation was in classical music (my Mother), but even attending classical concerts has in my case been strictly in the role of an Accompanying Person, never at my initiative. Radio—oh, radio—and the initiatives of family members have exposed me to a tiny selection of pop music, of which a few pieces I love with the irrational and total dedication of the true primitive. An arduous, and I mean exhaustive survey of my memories brings to mind a single attendance at a pop musical event to listen to Leo Kottke play his guitar compositions in a bar in Minnesota, the links of which are once more traceable by radio to the Prairie Home Companion—one of whose evenings I also once also attended in the body in St. Paul—and found by experience entirely to lack the magic produced by hearing that show entirely disembodied sitting, say, on a dark porch summer evenings and listening to radio. Through the air that surrounds me vibrates invisibly, inaudibly the labor of countless musicians—a continent as unknown to me as the far side of the moon. Billy Taylor, whoever you were, R.I.P.


  1. So we should expect you at the next Lady Gaga concert, right?

    I'm amazed by how completely out of touch I am with the pop charts these days. However, I don't think it's all just me getting old. The pop music world was always a bit fragmented by genre, but in the last decade it seems to have truly split into dozens upon dozens of niche subgenres. So unless you actively seek the new stuff it can pass by unheard pretty easily.

    When Monique and I were driving home on Thursday night we heard a song on the radio and I said, "Hey, that sounds kinda familiar. I think I may have heard it once before." Turns out it was the #1 hit in America for eight weeks this year. I had no idea, nor did I have any idea who sung it or what it was called.

  2. Maybe it's really a youth phenomenon, John, and youth rapidly recedes. Thinking about it more, I knew lots, and lots and pop songs in the late teens, when the war turmoil had disappeared, and I too wished that she'd "send me the pillow that you dream on..."