Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Neo-Balkan Genre, Best Enjoyed with a Cardigan

A couple of months ago, I pestered someone into burning me a copy of a Regina Spektor CD, and he instead gave me an MP3 CD of Regina Spektor, Blonde Redhead, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, and Beirut.
I never listen to the Regina Spektor part.
At first, I latched on to the Blonde Redhead section. When I was in high school, there were only two guys who listened to Blonde Redhead, as well as some other bands no one else had heard of. They were ahead of their time, fifteen-year-old hipsters in a sea of eighteen-year-old emo kids and punks. I remember one summer listening to a bunch of indie music, but only by myself and when school began and I was with my friends again, I never listened to Cat Power or Neutral Milk Hotel again.

But what I really want to write about is the other music on the CD. It took me a little longer to warm up to it. I was kind of like, "What the hell is this!? Where is the singing? Oh there it is! Is that English? I kind of like this...am I allowed to like this? Should I listen to this with the windows closed? Should I listen to this in the house only with the door closed when Patrick and Alice aren't home?"
I looked up the bands on Wikipedia, because I was confused as to why this Slavic music was in English, and found out that it's by Americans influenced by Slavic music, especially gypsy music. I then remembered that one late night in February, I was driving home listening to NPR. They were doing a special on Iva Bittova, a Czech violinist and singer of Roma descent. "Wow! I really like this music!" I thought, and have been, ever since, considering buying one of her CDs.
OK, so I like Slavic music and gypsy music. Well, fine. I'm twenty-four; I'm not in high school OR college; there is no one to judge my musical taste. (Plus, once I stopped listening to it in secret, a lot of my friends have been asking me, "What this?! Can I have a copy!?")

The other day, a friend and I were driving somewhere and I said, "Oh, we're going to listen to my GYPSY MUSIC."
"Cool!" she said. (I think. I'm just making up dialogue where I don't remember.)
So we were talking about the music, and I was telling the story of how the band is actually American, and how I'd been listening to it in secret.
"I know what you mean," she said. "I've been listening to..." her voice lowered, and she kind of turned her face away as though something horrifically shameful was about to exit her mouth. She mumbled, "Bluegrass."
I wanted to laugh. "So?" I said. "What's wrong with bluegrass?"

I forgot. My family is from Sparta, Tennessee, the birthplace of bluegrass. My friend is from Northeast Jersey and her family is Italian. Also, most people our age do not listen to gypsy music or bluegrass. At least not in New Jersey. But who cares!?
And so this was the theme of much of our conversation for the day. Whether or not we are "cool" because of various things we do, including listen to weird music. I was insisting that we are cool, just a different kind of cool.

I mean, gypsy music and bluegrass are cool in the same way knitting is cool.

Later, I was cold and putting on my Work Sweater over the otherwise inappropriately low cut halter dress I was wearing.
"I like this sweater!" my friend exclaimed. "I'm starting to really like--" and the same head bowing, mumbling "--cardigans..." More discussion of how we are like old ladies ensued.
"No!"I insisted. "We are in our mid-twenties! We can like whatever we want! We don't have to worry what other people think! We can listen to world music and wear cardigans!"

However, it later occurred to me the one GENUINELY OLD LADY conversation we had, and it passed us by without us even realizing it...
I was complaining about my leaky refrigerator that ruins food.
"I bought figs the other day, and the next day they were moldy!"
"What a sin!"*
$2.49 down the drain!" I said dramatically.
"You get figs for two forty-nine!?"
"Yes! And they're organic!"
"I've been paying $3.99!"
"They're at the Apple Farm Market on Easton Ave!"

Discussing the prices of produce. It is a short road from here to hating fireworks and yelling at kids to get off my lawn.
Except I won't have a lawn; I'll have an overgrown mess of daylilies, snakeroot, echinacea, various species of Asclepias, and bee balm to which I refer as "perennial garden."

*I don't think she really said, "What a sin!" But either one of us could have! The loss of figs IS a sin!

1 comment:

Oilbird said...

HAHAHAHA I LOVE THIS POST. probably because i love when you write about me =)

I probably did say what a sin, and I already hate fireworks.