“Music Is Life Itself,” Louis Armstrong

As Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” No truer words have been written, at least for me. I was introduced to music from the time I was born. My Mom played the piano, My Dad, the guitar. Dad liked country music, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. For Mom it was Frank Sinatra and Elvis. By the time I was ten years old I had seen Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Buck Owens in concert. I was given a set of drums at thirteen, and never looked back. I have played drums ever since.

There were times in my life that I have owned little else except a really good stereo system. Of the things I remember throughout the years one thing stays with me more than any other and that is my love of music. I would buy records at my local store and play them until I wore out the grooves. I poured over the liner notes, absorbing every word. Even though I’ve dabbled with several musical instruments such as guitar, bass, and flute, I have, as Stephen Fry writes in the forward of his book, “Stephen Fry’s Incomplete & Utter History Of Classical Music,” become an Olympic level listener. And I’m not talking about wearing Blue Tooth ear buds while jogging or background music while making dinner. I’m talking about sitting down with a high quality set of headphones and listening. Just listening.

I’ve been to dozens of concerts over the years. Besides the aforementioned Country music stars I’ve seen other music greats such as B.B. King, John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, The Doobie Brothers, Dave Matthews, Canned Heat and many, many others. I’ve also seen a few Classical music concerts, (I volunteered for the Mankato Symphony for a few years) which is where my musical tastes are today. Yesterday I bought a boxed set of everything that’s been recorded by Antonin Dvorak. It has 17 CD’s. I’ll be pouring over that for quite awhile.

In 1997 I met a lovely women who’s love of music matched my own. When I found it difficult to stump her at music trivia, I married her. She had a wonderful singing voice and we spent countless hours playing music and singing together. I’ve run the sound systems for rock bands and have known and still know many great musicians. The fact that most great players never make it professionally but still spend their lives playing is a testament to the power which music can have over some of us. I’ve never regretted a moment of my life spent with music.

Today I run a 200 watt power amp through a 31 band, two channel equalizer into Klipsch tower speakers with spun copper cones. I also have a $200 pair of Beyerdynamic headphones. I cannot listen to music properly without quality reproduction equipment. That’s just a fact. Do I sound like a prude? Too bad! If you’re going to really listen to music, you have to do it right. There’s nothing better than picking out the finest details of a run of notes on a violin or the sonic perfection of a Paul McCartney bass line.

Many finer writers than myself have extolled the virtues of good music, so I’ll leave that to them. I’ll just say that listening to a piece of Classical music, a concerto or string quartet, or a symphony, especially during these times of political upheaval and the Covid virus, helps me hang on to my sanity. I can face anything that comes at me as long as I have some good music to listen to, music that can take me to places otherwise unreachable through any other means. And that too, is a fact.

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