A (somewhat dry) musical autobiography: Addendum

🎵📽 I realized as I was describing yesterday’s musical autobiography (which is different than an autobiographical musical) to W. that I had left out three of the most important musical pieces of my life. I think I left these out because they have been as ubiquitous for me in the past decade (or in one case most of my life) as water is to a fish. I imagine if a fish were writing an autobiography, it probably wouldn’t comment on the water around it, any more than a person who isn’t taking an explicitly ecological slant would comment on the air.

But here they are, three huge bits of my musical taste:

Enya: Especially her album Shepherd Moons. I don’t know when my family got into Enya, but we really committed once we did. We had the piano/vocal songbook for Shepherd Moons, and these were some of the only songs I ever learned to play on the piano. “How Can I Keep from Singing is a great favorite, which I think I’ve probably used as an audition piece at some point and just is the best when you need a boost. “Marble Halls” is so dear that when I came upon a beautiful bound score of its origin opera, The Bohemian Girl, I bought it without bothering to even look at the rest of the score. (I later gave that score to my sister, who might ever actually use that as an aria.) When I was in the darkest parts of my depression, Shepherd Moons and Watermark brought me great comfort (along with the soundtrack for The Princess Bride). (My love is like a storybook story, but it’s as real as the feelings I feel.) And perhaps most importantly, Shepherd Moons was playing both when my mother was in labor with my younger brother (I was 13 and in the delivery room) and when I was in labor with M. Soundtrack of my life much?

The Lonely Island: I know The Lonely Island got big because of “Lazy Sunday,” but it’s really “Dick in a Box” and “Motherlover” that made me fall in love with them. So many favorites: “I’m on a Boat,” “I Just Had Sex,” “Jack Sparrow,“and “Space Olympics” are tops with me (with “Space Olympics” as the one that best represents my comedic sensibility), and “Diaper Money” is especially relatable since M’s birth. (See also: Garfunkel and Oates’s “Pregnant Women Are Smug.") And don’t even get me started on Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping and The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience.

Finally, because I’m the same as everybody else, Hamilton (except I’m a Hamilton hipster, having listened to it via NPR’s First Listen before the album was released). Hamilton reminded me that I actually liked hip-hop and R&B. (I failed to mention Eminem in my list of music I enjoyed in college, so let’s just stick that here.) It blew me away and made me believe that rappers were magicians. Around the same time Hamilton was released, I started regularly attending a hip-hop improv show, and the March after it was released, I actually joined the cast of that show. I set challenges for myself: first, to rap along with Angelica’s rap in “Satisfied,” my favorite song in the show mostly for the couplet “I know my sister like I know my own mind/You will never find anyone as trusting or as kind” (check out that sweet internal rhyme, btw), and then once I mastered that, I challenged myself to learn Lafayette’s piece of “Guns and Ships,” which has the most words in three seconds in any Broadway musical. I knocked that out and I kind of learned to freestyle, which was the most terrifying part of improv before I got into Hamilton. I called my flow “passable,” until my friend, actual rapper and hip-hop educator Rowdy, scolded me for not giving myself enough credit, so now I call it “good enough for comedy.” Which, since my heroes The Lonely Island aspired to be “the greatest fake MCs on earth,” is good enough for me.

I bet I’ll remember more music stuff later. I’ll write a new post about it when I do!

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