Here are some key quotes. Continue reading
For my 35th birthday, my sister gave me a CD of Muppet Silly Songs, a favorite of ours when we were kids. It’s been out of print for years and last time I checked wasn’t even available on the web, legally or not. We unearthed the vinyl at our mom and stepfather’s place when we were there over Mother’s Day, and Molly converted it to digital with the help of our friend Leo.
The best tool for understanding where music comes from is evolutionary biology. Songs don’t spontaneously spring into being any more than animals or plants do. They evolve, descending from reshuffled pieces of existing songs, the way our genes are shuffled together from our parents’ genes. The same way that all life has a single common ancestor, all human music has a shared origin in the calls of our primate forebears.
Christmas makes me depressed. I would like it not to make me depressed. I want to have kids, and I want them to at least have the option to enjoy this time of year. In order for that to happen, I need to learn to enjoy it. I remember enjoying it when I was little. I can’t exactly pinpoint when I soured on it, but by late adolescence, it was mostly an occasion for dread, and in my adult life it’s mostly been an occasion for sadness. I’m hoping that some autobiographical writing will help me get a grip on the whole thing.
A big part of my sadness is due to the early death of my dad, who loved Christmas and celebrated it with a total and unironic enthusiasm. Among his fellow investment bankers he presented a Frasier-like highbrow persona, opera-going and cosmopolitan. But he showed his midwestern roots in his lifelong devotion to Garrison Keillor, his love of fireworks and especially his fondness for Christmas kitsch. We stopped going to church after Grandma died. Dad didn’t inherit any of her religious fervor. Or did he? He took Santa Claus and the tree seriously. He loved to play Santa at office Christmas parties and signed half the cards on gifts to us “from Santa” into my college years and the one December past them that he lived. As a little kid I thought it was terrific, but the older I got, the more difficult it got. The holiday ritual I liked the best was the Elvis Christmas Album.