My love affair with music, and how I broke my desire to own it all

As I sat down to turn on my computer and write about my love affair with music I began to hear someone in the distance playing a bagpipe.  So as I am writing this I am smiling, as I enjoy the sounds of a free concert drifting through my open door.

My love of music goes back to my earliest childhood memories. Sundays we attended church where the best part for me as a child was the choir.  Throughout the week music was played in our home rather than the TV.  But my love for music seemed to go beyond that of my families’.

Week days, my grandmother would work around the house to the sounds of either the radio or her stack of record albums playing on the old stereo.  Her favorites included Cher, Elvis, Sammy Davis Jr., Ed Ames and Jerry Vale.  On Saturdays, my grandfather  home from work  choose the music,  we listened to his collection of big band music including Lawrence Welk, and Scatman Crothers!

I was given my first transistor radio which ran solely on batteries when I was two years old.  I could carry this with me every where I went, and I did.My grandparents used to laugh about how they would come in at night to turn it off after I had fallen asleep to save the batteries.

My transistor radio was my constant companion, along with my books.  How upset I was to learn I couldn’t take it with me to school.  At age twelve I was given a clock radio with both AM and FM capabilities for Christmas.  Now my batteries lasted longer in my transistor radio as it would stay with me as my only source of traveling music.  My transistor radio would stay with me to eventually be given to my son when he was little.  It finally broke after almost thirty years of use.

Listening wasn’t enough

How I longed to hear what couldn’t be found on the radio.  I wanted to recreate what I heard too.  I asked for a guitar, but was told no, only boys played guitar.  I asked for a piano, but was told no my finger span wasn’t wide enough to play properly so it would be a waste.

I then became enamored with drums, something about it pulled on me like no other instrument.  Maybe it was the ability to bang out my frustrations that attracted me, but while others were talking about the lead singer, or the lead guitarist, I was listening to the drummer.  Just for kicks I asked if I could play the drums, I already knew the answer, and of course I got it. “No, only boys play drums” and was informed it wasn’t lady-like, which was funny since I was always the tomboy.

A few years back a friend showed me drums she made from gourds.  These were beautiful and each had it’s own unique sound. I could sit on her patio and play these all day long.  If you want to make your own, click here for instructions.

For me it’s not one type of music, I love any sound that reaches my ears, from the waves in the ocean, every variation of rain from a soft patter to the loud thunderstorm, to every form of wind chimes from wood to metal to glass ones. I first heard the metal wind chimes like these when I was 15. My great uncle had made a set for my grandmother.  This was his “I’m retired not dead” phase, but I loved them no matter why he made them.  I fell in love with them simply because they were a new sound, they were unique to my life experiences which was precisely the point,  they all speak to something in me seeking something new.

I still needed more.  As I entered my teens I began to go to all the concerts which came to our town.  It wasn’t hard when tickets were only $8 each.  From there I used my money to purchase a cheap record player.  This one folded closed, when you lifted the top the speakers were built-in on each side of the lid.  I then  joined a couple of record clubs buying anything that looked good. One club wasn’t enough for me.  By the time I graduated high school I belonged to three music clubs, mainly to get the ten for 99 cents just for  joining.

At 17, buying my first car, I needed more than the radio and had an 8-track player installed, little did I know 8 tracks were on the way out.   My collection was growing.  I had record albums in the house and 8-tracks for the car.

Motherhood and music

My children inherited my love of music.  My vehicle now came with a cassette player in it as well as the standard radio.  This necessitated joining another music club to get a large collection of cassettes for the car.   Each time we left the house we would each bring music to listen to,  the boys worked out a rotating order of whose music would be played first. It worked for us.

Where  many children would put on plays to act out for their families, my children would spend an afternoon creating their own music to perform that evening for me.  They had keyboards from the time they were two, and guitars entered the home starting at age ten.

We watched performances on television, especially the PBS channel where we watched things such as the Lord of the Dance (which we were also fortunate enough to see live) and Celtic music to name a couple.  We attended every free outdoor concert and arrived early enough on Friday evenings at the local pizza pub to get a good seat for open mic night.

What is it about music

Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.”  Ronald Reagan

I use music for all kinds of reasons.  Music can change a mood, much better than any drug ever could.  Music can get us moving when we don’t want to move. Music can soothe us when we need to unwind. Music speeds me up to get a chore completed faster, and distracts me from how long or hard a workout is. Music can allow you to wallow in your hurt from a broken heart, or celebrate an accomplishment.

The money I spent was truly shocking

I don’t even want to count the thousands of dollars I have spent buying music.  Added to that would be all the money spent on concerts.  I don’t regret any of it, but I knew I had to change my ways.  Gone are the record clubs, and with the rising cost of tickets so are most of the concerts.

I returned to my roots by using the radio for my additional music needs.  Then a few years ago my son gifted me with an XM satellite radio.  Mine came with both the adapters for the house and the car.  This was wonderful.  Now I could find any type of music I wanted when I wanted.  This was a dream come true.

I did have two complaints.  First there was a monthly charge for this.  Second, I had no control over what was played.  So while I may have found a channel I liked soon I would be listening to music I really didn’t want to hear.  This would begin the search for another channel playing something I wanted to listen to.

The XM was canceled when I moved into an apartment which had no reception.  I was far enough out that I had no cell phone reception except for right in the front window, no ability to receive television channels, cable TV was not available out there,  and no reception for the XM radio.   I signed up with a satellite TV service and found that I could get all the XM radio channels as part of my package.

I barely watched any  TV shows, but I sure listened to the music channels.  I hooked the TV up to a small stereo to better enjoy the quality of the music, but at nearly $30 per month this was ridiculous.  When the contract was up I canceled the satellite service and again returned to only the radio and what music I owned.

Through the years I never stopped buying music, I just limited how much I bought.  When my son was 16, he was hired by Best Buy and as a perk of the job was given a free membership to Rhapsody, an online service which allows you to download music.  During this time, my desire to buy was curbed because he downloaded me anything I wanted, all for the price of buying the blank CD’s.

Radio grows up and my problem is solved

Finally, I have found something which solves all my wants, and needs, for music.  It’s called Pandora Radio.  I first heard about this last January.  My brother was mentioning that he would get rid of his smart phone if it wasn’t for Pandora. I had recently been upgraded to a smart phone, yet I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.   What was this and why was it so important? I had to know.  He then told me I could download the app for this on my phone and create my own radio channels.  I downloaded it immediately.

By the end of the day I had created seven of my own personalized channels.  These seven channels represent my basic moods.  Where this differs from the satellite radio I had in the past, is that I am able to “give a song a thumbs down” this stops the song and deletes it from my channel permanently.  Now I only listen to what I like, and for free as I see no need to upgrade to the paid service which is $36 per year (close to what my satellite TV service cost each month)

I have never tried to give the impression that I am technologically savvy. I’m not.  I mentioned to my son, who with his wife each had Pandora on their phones, that the only draw back was how frequently I needed to recharge the battery on my phone.   He laughed and asked me why I would use my phone at home when I could listen to it online over the computer.  Wow!  See I’m no brain when it comes to technology.  But perseverance paid off and I no longer am tempted to own everything I hear that I enjoy.   I have found an answer to have my music and not pay for it.   My bagpipe concert has ended, time to turn Pandora on.


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