Isn’t it weird to suddenly talk about this topic?
I don’t think that I have ever talked about music any more than briefly in passing. It might be confusing to my finger quotes audience, and I worry I’ll seem inconsistent.Well, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. If you wonder, “I didn’t know that you sang and played the piano, or you liked music in that way — or, at all…” please note that I didn’t know either.
For most of my life, I was just a shower singer to myself.
I had had perhaps half a dozen years of piano lessons but never became extremely (or even kind of) good at it. Most of my effort was spent simply trying to play the notes on the scores — there was no room for considering what the music was trying to express; I couldn’t (probably still can’t) even remember to consistently reproduce more than two sharps or flats in the key. The biggest problem, now that I think about it, is that I didn’t even know what the music was supposed to sound like. And I hadn’t practiced for six hours every day, and never had the interest to. Perhaps it was a catch-22; perhaps I was just going about it in the wrong way. In hindsight, it’s not surprising I didn’t really enjoy classical music.
What about contemporary music? The stuff on the Weekly Top 40? It’s “popular” and that translates to “the lowest common denominator of the world” in my head. I do think that a lot of the stuff on the radio is terribly predictable, but even (or especially) if I honestly find a song terrible, it still gets stuck in my head and I still sing along anyway. I don’t have a very good taste, do I?
And besides, I don’t even listen to music that often. I don’t walk around all day or do homework with earbuds in my ears, as I would expect the typical musically-oriented person to — I can’t think carefully like that, and if I manage to focus hard enough to tune out the music then I might as well just take out the earbuds. To get the most out of listening to music, I have to be active, which often involves singing along and making exaggerated hand gestures; but it still doesn’t use enough of my brainpower, and the rest of my brain feels restless. So I usually only listen to songs to learn them, possibly for a performance, possibly just to sing to myself on the street or in the shower.
Because I didn’t have any of these imagined prerequisites of a musically-versed person, I thought I didn’t like music.
Now I see that it’s a little more complicated than that.
Towards the end of my piano lessons, I got my teacher to cover a little knowledge about chords and improvisational accompaniment, and then I played some old (just not classical-old) Chinese songs. I found this more enjoyable, but I still sucked at it. I know how to play “童話” on the piano with a simple accompaniment without a score to reference. That’s it, literally. I meant to learn another by heart for a really long time, but I simply never got around to it. I didn’t have the motivation; I pursued other hobbies; I went to the IMO. Meanwhile, the piano in my house sat there gathering dust.
Then, after a little coaxing from friends and a little #yoloswag temperament, I joined our school’s A Cappella club. This was exciting but initially rather unrewarding; I missed our first performance for a programming competition and was in the hospital for the second. I finally got to perform with them in Charity Night. But it was pretty bad, even though we could blame the microphones and acoustics of the room. I was shocked at how great the other performances were, though — you don’t understand this until you try performing, I guess. This spurred me to sit down at the piano again. No scores, no complicated terms, just me and whatever melody floated into my head coupled with random chords until it sounded right. I still sucked at it, but everything felt different.
Most recently we had a “big” performance for the first time, one performance and one featured appearance during our IBSH orchestra concert. And all of a sudden I got a solo part. Of course I was terribly nervous, but I think I didn’t screw it up, at least. I don’t know how we did overall, since there aren’t any videos, but our club president says it was great (or “a lot better than average”?) And then there was the feature where we randomly appeared at the end and sang “Do You Hear the People Sing?”, which also didn’t blow up (and is on the Internet).
But there aren’t any tricky harmonies or anything, and it’s still kind of hard to hear us, so I don’t think that’s very remarkable.
And finally: our rushed English project ended up with me singing and rapping something to the tune of Thrift Shop. It was very silly and I am not going to post it here. But it turns out I already have enough equipment and technology to make my own covers if I really want to…
I know music is not a first or second passion for me; at least, mathematics and programming (“hacking”/“computer science”) come before it. I feel it’s a bit late to change primary interests and direction in life to include a brand new hobby at the top, but I don’t think I want to change that drastically either. I could be wrong. But the bottom line is — I realized I like singing, as more than just a passing hobby. And possibly, participating in A Cappella isn’t enough to satisfy this feeling.
Don’t expect anything, though.