So, Here’s The Score

I’m going to write about my dad’s CD collection. Really, I’m a total idiot for not having thought of it sooner.

How to describe my dad?

He was tall. Smart, intimidatingly smart. And kooky. He once wore a black, hooded bathrobe to class at the local university and carried a scythe. The occasion, I believe, was a math test. Another time, he wore a cat in a hat hat. He randomly asked me one time what I would think if he installed a pink hula hoop in the yard and shot flames through it. “Pink Flaming O. Get it?”

Elizabeth, a high school friend who drove me home from the airport the weekend I packed up dad’s CDs, described him as a Renaissance man, and said to some degree he let her know it was okay to be smart and different and cool. Which I think is marvelous.

*The* image emblazoned in my brain of dad is all 6’6″ of him sprawled on the floor in the “front” room. Back propped against the couch, so that you had to step over him any time you were going somewhere else in the house. With five or six books and magazines scattered around him. Watching TV (usually something lowbrow, as I recall, although maybe that’s just the “Beverly Hills 90210” I made him watch with me). Drinking a glass of wine, eating some cheese. And always…always…with music on.

Oh yeah, and sometimes also there were cats.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, it was classical. Exactly what, at any given time, I don’t recall paying much attention to, but I grew up steeped in it. I didn’t listen to much else until junior high, at the earliest, and I don’t think I really got into “popular” music until I spent a couple of years in Russia post-college, where the perfect confluence of ridiculously cheap, typo-ridden counterfeit CDs, a boyfriend with a deep interest in Radiohead, and a colleague with a strange affection for 70s heavy metal all conspired to push me in that direction. (More on all of this later.)

His collection was – is – incredible. I didn’t realize how incredible, exactly, until I went home to get it. “Could you do a rough count?” I wheedled my mom on the phone, trying to guesstimate how many 320-capacity Targus carrying cases I needed. The count came back: about 2,500.


This many CDs is a little bit like talking about the distance to the moon – unfathomable. Fathom this: It’s two straight days of taking CDs and liner notes out of jewel cases, slipping them into their plastic slots, pausing only to eat, or when one’s back aches intolerably, or one’s cuticles began to bleed. It’s about 285 composers, excluding ones who were filed under “performers” in dad’s collection. It’s at least 125 Mozart CDs, at least 97 Beethoven, at least 147 Bach. It’s seven different versions of Janacek’s ‘Glagolitic Mass’, whatever that is.

It's even more CDs than this.

Writing about this is going to be a large task. A long task. I am going to need some rules. Here they are.

The Rules

1. At least one blog post per composer.

2. For any composer with more than 10 CDs in dad’s collection, at least one blog post per 10 CDs.

3. For any composer with more than 25 CDs in dad’s collection, I will read a book somehow related to that composer.

4. I will usually, but not always, go in at least a facsimile of alphabetical order.

5. I will read all the liner notes.

6. I’m not going to be able to handle a Julie and Julia-esque one-post-plus-a-day time scale here. I’m occasionally going to need a break from classical music, just like Julie really should have taken a break from French sauces. But I’m going to do my damndest to post at least three times a week, although I make no promises that I won’t occasionally totally lose it and write about, say, my mad love of Vin Diesel.

7. This blog isn’t going to be just musical history, or just family history, or just personal history. It’s going to be whatever I find myself thinking of or inspired by or annoyed about as I listen to any given CD. Most of all, it’s going to be lively, and fun, because classical music is lively and fun and embedded in everyday life and rock and hip-hop and television and movies. It’s not dead and gone at all, and neither are the people who’ve left us, as long as we remember them.

It’s an adventure! And off we go.

24 thoughts on “So, Here’s The Score

    • thanks! Just starting out. Hope to have at least Twitter up by this weekend. Will let you know when I do.

  1. What a wonderful tribute to your dad. I remember how you said he used to brake in time to the music on the car radio! And while I’m sure you watched many “lowbrow” shows, it seemed to me that a news channel with the stock ticker going across the bottom was on the TV many afternoons. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

    • Thanks Sarah! That story will surface in time, I just wish I could remember what he was braking to! And yes, CNBC was on quite a bit, it’s true!

  2. He sounds amazing….and so does his collection. Can’t wait to read more…

  3. I will follow this with great interest. Your father introduced me to Janacek’s music back in the early 70’s. A most interesting man, your dad.

    • Hey – thanks so much for reading! Any memory of what he said about Janacek or what you thought about Janacek – I would most welcome hearing it.

  4. Jenny, your blog brought back fond memories of your dad. He truly was a Renaissance man. I hated leaving all of the people in Jonesboro when we moved to VA the first time, and your family was a big reason I didn’t want to move.

    • Thanks Carla! Trying to get all the memories down before they fly away completely. Please share anything you remember, would love to hear it.

      • Hi Jenny. I just looked back at your blog today to see what has been going on. do you remember hearing Jacques Brel, who was Flemish, I think? Your dad played one of his records when we were over at your house one evening, and I got him to make a tape for me, which I still have. He truly had an eclectic taste in music. I’ll write more as I think of it, but I remembered this when I read your initial statement.

        • You still have the tape? That’s great! I definitely remember him listening to Jacques Brel, although only to the extent that any time Jacques Brel came up in conversation, I would be able to interject that he was alive and well and living in Paris. I wonder if mom shares this memory – we saw an off-Broadway production of Jacques Brel a couple of years ago. Also, dad had a lot of non-classical CDs that are all still in Arkansas, and I expect any still-existing Jacques Brel is in that collection. Hopefully at some point I’ll get to that…

          • Something else I remember about your dad (and mom) is when we had dinner parties at your house, he brought out several types of liqueurs as after-dinner aperitifs. that may have been my introduction to liqueurs; not sure. Anyway, he was a very gracious host, and I always looked forward to dinner parties and faculty parties at your house. More later as I recall more stuff, if you’re interested in this type of thing.

  5. This is lovely! And so systematic–helpful for the movie script. Can’t wait to read more.

    • Hi – thanks! The twitter feed should be accessible from the side of the page, @classicaljen

  6. One more thought for now. You probably don’t remember that your dad took an IQ test from me for a class I was taking at ASU. I’m quite sure he would rather not have been a guinea pig for me, but he did it with grace. I remember being impressed that he knew twhat the Apocrypha was. I have a feeling Jules refused to take the test.

    • Ha! I had to look up Apocrypha. Now that I know, I am not surprised, and I’d even be willing to bet that he’d read them.

  7. Thanks for citing me here. I’m honored. My memory of him is exactly as you describe 🙂