Sirithiri: Radio days, Beethoven, Dixie Chicks and listening from the grass

Posted in Blogs, Music

SIRI BARDARSON, Aug. 1, 2013

“Summer Sounds”

True confession; I am a musician and I don’t listen to much music.

There, I said it. I can’t casually listen; it’s intentional on my part.  But, I’ve been in the audience recently, and I’ve had some great listens.

What do you listen to and why do you listen?

One day a week, I teach music up at Click Music in Oak Harbor. Dave Willis, my wonderful guitar player friend and fellow creative, and I were sitting outside our cubicles and I asked him a bunch of questions.

“What music do you listen to and why?” I asked.

He said he listened to lots of guitar music because he is endlessly fascinated with how other guitar players do it. He also likes jazz singers, but not for the lyrics, but for their phrasing.  I asked him if he could listen to music as background and he said, no, not really.  I asked him if there were styles of music that he didn’t like and he said (paraphrasing here) that in his “religion” of music, everything is accepted.  Even if he doesn’t like a certain style, he understands why someone would want to pursue it.  He cited heavy metal as an example.

All genres and styles are part of a big pile of information and creative goo. Like looking at a Lichtenstein when your favorite artist is Singer Sargeant, or reading “Twilight” when your heart belongs to Thomas Hardy.

Two of my favorite books of all time have lots in common: “Ramona” and “Beezus” by Beverly Cleary and “Light in August” by William Faulkner. Love, loss and antics handed to us by a willful main character.  These novels range from the ridiculous to the sublime and so do my musical tastes. I go hear the Seattle Symphony perform Beethoven’s “Ninth” in December.  It’s a monumental experience, like visiting the Grand Canyon.

The other day a friend and I were talking about “Red Rubber Ball” by the Hollies.  That’s an experience more like eating cotton candy at the fair in your flip flops.

During summers when I was young, I didn’t have to take cello lessons because we came up to Whidbey Island.  Many happy days were spent lying on my Grandma’s matchstick mat on beautiful Brighton Beach after a swim in water so cold that it gave you an ice cream headache. My Grandpa would let me borrow his transistor radio, (it had a little leather case and a strap) and the sun would be beating down and the saltwater would dry off of me in an itchy way and I would escape into KJR Seattle, Channel 95.

“Lying on the beach with the transistor goin’, keep off the sandflies, honey, the love’s still flowin’.”

That Joni song hadn’t been written yet, but its truth already existed.

My mother didn’t allow us to listen to “that kind” of music. All the emotion in the hit parade: love that was sweet, gritty, and out-of-reach; anger with a message; freedom that was rebellious.  Popular music invaded me with feelings that were easy or intense.  And I was amazed at how simple it was compared to classical music.  There I had to work so strenuously for a feeling that was monstrously gorgeous if I could get there, but daunting and nearly impossible to achieve. Music equals feelings; KJR confirmed that for me.

Listening to music helps me make sense of stuff, or dredge up what’s bugging me. Sometimes it’s trite and sometimes it’s involved.  The other day, I was painting my bedroom and listening to the Dixie Chicks.  I was looking for feminist fuel with perfect three-part and kickass banjo playing.  Four years ago on a trip to Iceland, I listened to the icy, cold jazz explorations of the Tord Gustafson Trio; it matched the landscape perfectly.  But when I was missing my lover, I’d switch to John Scofield’s album of Ray Charles.  Wow, music therapy.

This summer, there are many opportunities for listening on Whidbey Island.  I want to be out there sitting on my blanket, listening and being open. I hope I can let my guard down — the judgment and my intensity — and just experience the experience.

Nancy Nolan plays Ott & Murphy Winery Tasting Room Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. in Langley. (David Welton photo)

Nancy Nolan plays Ott & Murphy Winery Tasting Room Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. in Langley. (David Welton photo)

See you there!

Summer Music Listening Opportunities:

  • Ska, soul, rock ‘n roll  by Natalie Wouldn’t  from 6:30 to 8 p.m.Thursday,  Aug. 8 at  South Whidbey Parks and Recreation, 5495 Maxwelton Road in Langley.
  • Whidbey Island Winery Summer Concerts Shakin’ the Vines” 
  • Nancy Nolan and Friends at Ott and Murphy’s Wine Tasting Room in Langley, Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
  • Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 10 and Sunday, Aug. 11 in downtown Coupeville.

Siri Bardarson is a musician devoting this year to creative projects that synthesize her classical and popular music backgrounds via her cello.  She is ecstatically happy!


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