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