Monday, May 09, 2005

My Musical History - Part 1

I thought I would start this blog with a short look into my own musical history - what led me to music, and to where I am today.


I wish I could say that I started playing the piano or something when I was 3 years old, and mastered my first Mozart Sonata at age 5, but my life in music didn't start until much later. Since I was born into a non-musical family, I never really had the early opportunities that most people who become composers have. My family was more the typical, blue collar American middle-class family, and making me into a composer was, I'm sure, the furthest thing from my parents minds. Even though I didn't start music early, I do have a vivid memory of hearing part of a symphony (I was four or five, around 1978), but not the ending. I remember walking around our apartment in Houston, Texas, and creating endings for the piece in my head. I remember feeling frustrated, because to me, it seemed like there were an infinite number of possible endings, and I just kept going, never quite settling on one, definitive version. Unfortunately, my musical mind had to lay dormant for many years to come.

I never even considered playing an instrument until I was in fifth grade. Towards the end of the school year, the middle school band (from the school I would be attending the next year), played a concert at my school, and I was really captivated and excited by the music, and by the prospect of actually getting to PLAY music! I'd never even considered the possibility before, and I was overflowing with excitement at the possibilities. I immediately decided that I wanted to play the saxophone - I even remember telling my friend after school that I was going to play the "electric" saxophone - whatever that is.

The next year, I signed up for band and went with my Mom to the orientation session, where we would choose our instruments, etc. Well, we found out that we had to rent a saxophone from a local music company at our own expense, and since my parents were on a tight budget at the time, I was left with the instruments that the school would provide - essentially the instruments that were too expensive to rent. Since I also liked trombone at the time, the director told me I should play euphonium since it had the same range as the trombone. It wasn't as exciting as saxophone, but I didn't care - I was going to play in the band. My greatest memory from playing in band, was the very first day that we all played together as a band. He had us play a major chord, and I just couldn't believe how it sounded, and felt when we all played it. The feeling was just indescribable. But, the euphonium was not the most versatile of instruments, and the realities of puberty (trying to be cool) were starting to set in, so I decided that guitar would be a much better (and cooler) choice of instruments. I'd still like to go back in time and thank myself for the switch (no offense to euphonium players).


So, pretty much when I started High School, I was devoted to guitar and to rock music. When I was a Sophomore, I met another guitarist in my grade, and we started a garage band, and played all of the music we loved. This included Metallica, Megadeth, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Rush, King Crimson, etc. You'll notice - NO CLASSICAL MUSIC yet. Anyway, I played rock music throughout High School, and when I graduated, I started a "real" band with my friend Scott, and our drummer friend Mike. I started writing rock songs - I was 17 years old, and this was the first "composing" I had ever done in my life. I even have an example of a song I wrote during this time (1991) called Voyage of the Beagle - the songs lyrics were based on Charles Darwin's book of the same title - yeah - WAY too intellectual for rock music.

So anyway, we started playing gigs in Houston in 1991, and continued to play through 1994. We had a few personell changes along the way. In 1992, Mike left us, and we met a violinist named Heath who joined the band. Mike was replaced by Clark on drums, and we started to play cities outside of Houston. During this time, I was attending the University of Houston, majoring in television and film, but taking as many music classes as I could.

My first semester I took a music history class (more like an appreciation class) for non-music majors. At the time, this was all I could handle, since I had no familiarity with the music, nor could I read any music. The first piece we listened to was the fourth movement of Bartok's "Music for Percussion, Strings and Celesta". It simply blew my mind - I had just never heard anything like this before. Every single thing we listened to that semester I will never forget, and just fascinated me. Mendelsohn's "Overture to a Midsummer Night's Dream", Berlioz's "Fantastic Symphony", Vivaldi's "Variations on La Folia", Purcell's "Lament from Dido and Aeneas", J.S. Bach's "Brandenburg Concerto No. 5", Brahms' "String Sextet No. 1".

Also that same year, I had bought the new album of Faith No More called "Angel Dust". There was a track on that album called "Malpractice" that featured a sample from Shostakovich's 8th String Quartet. I had no idea what it was, but I read the liner notes and found out. I bought the Kronos Quartet recording of the piece, and I was more blown away by it than any piece I heard in my class. I was also starting to write little "concert music" pieces for piano and string quartet and mixed ensembles - none of which I could get performed, but at this point it was more of a hobby because I had no clue what I was doing, and was teaching myself how to read and write music as I went along. This continued into 1994, when I decided that I had had it and wanted to go to music school so I could actually learn this music, and be immersed in it, all the time.

To be continued in Part 2...


cruel princess said...

I like your fantastic works. I'm eigh-teen. My English skill is inexperienced.. sorry~

Anthony Joseph Lanman said...

Thanks! Are you Japanese?