This evening I’ve been exploring music past. I wanted to hear the music I knew in the 60s and 70s. Someone put up a list of top Australian hits in 1974 and I looked at it and realised that it’s quite different to the music generally associated with that year. We hear about music from the USA, you see, and from the UK.
I listened to some of the tunes on that list first, but one of the top ten struck me as getting my mood exactly right when it was first released: Helen Reddy’s “Leave Me Alone” was perfect for a proto-teenager.
I moved onto orchestral music. When I was in primary school and early high school, we went to Melbourne Town Hall and were taught to understand orchestral music. In primary school we were taught the instruments of the orchestra, how the orchestra worked, Peter and the Wolf, Tchaikovsky (The Nutcracker, mainly), Beethoven and… that’s all I remember. I watched a Bernstein recording and he taught children very different stuff. More the stuff I discovered when I was a teenager. As a teenager I fell in love with Schubert, played in a regional orchestra and the school orchestra (second violin in one, first in the other), and I went to concerts every fortnight. I came from a musical family and went to a standard state school… which happened to have free music education. I once did a lot of music, and the Bernstein brought the formal education aspect flooding back. My top moment of music learning was when Felix Werder taught me to care for Mahler and when my father’s first cousin taught me how to listen. Linda was a composer and a music judge and a critic, and her random remarks taught me so much. Since that moment, everything has gone downhill… but… my evening of music didn’t stop with memories of Mahler and Linda. I was very privileged musically in my childhood, not so much as an adult.
I sang, of course, some songs I learned from Alfred Deller and also the King’s Singers. They were my personal favourite musicians when I was a teen, and both really annoyed my family. Everyone else was singing ABBA and the bay City Rollers and I was listening to a counter-tenor who sang folk songs. I was informed by my family how very bad my singing is
Then moved to my final music for the evening. I’m writing to it now. Tom Lehrer. This sentence is being typed to the rhythm of The Vienna Schnitzel Waltz. The final note of the night was either going to be Lehrer or Flanders and Swann. The news makes me sarcastic right now, so of course it’s Lehrer.
And now, of course, I’m very curious about the music of your childhoods. Of course I am.