Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The sound of the square root of -1

Yesterday Marcus and I went north to Launceston with the school chess team, to compete at the State Finals. Rodney and Avon picked us up at 6am. I had practically no sleep, due to my DTCR sleep disorder - known to the layman as Don't Trust the Clock Radio. At some primitive crocodile-brain level, I have to wake up and check the time about every twenty minutes.

Rodney is a very nice and interesting guy. We listened to music on the way up, and on the way back, he and I subjected the boys to a quiz which turned into a maths lecture from Rodney. After each bit petered out, Avon would actually say "Dad, can you give us another lecture?" By the time we approached Hobart he was expanding on the nature of unreal numbers, such as the square root of -1.

I enjoyed Rodney's taste in CDs on the 3 hour drive. He's into primitive blues and the White Stripes. He actually took his 3 kids and partner Beck to see the Stripes. Which made me wish I was a rock dad, pogo-ing to The Dirty Three as my admiring family look on, thinking "Dad is the coolest".

I am keen to introduce my kids to the music I like. When I was a kid, I could go through my parents' LPs and learn something about music without even listening. By the age of 11 if someone said "Dave Brubeck", I could namecheck at least four albums. On a much less cool level, I was an admirer of the packaging design exhibited by Mum's Nana Mouskouri boxed set. I didn't know much about the music itself, its true. Of course you could fake it thanks to liner notes. Albums then had a whole essay on the back. Especially jazz CDs - without actually putting the record on, you knew that on track 3 "Bones on alto and Red on tenor kick it off in 3/4 with a solid backing from Jackie, who then moves up front with one of his smoking solos. Joe takes over with alternating bars of 7/8 and 4/4 before Bones brings it on home in 3/4, riffing on Tiger Rag and the theme from Huckleberry Hound".

My CDs are not hidden away, but they are still up out of easy kid reach, where they were moved when Marcus was about one. I have put some music on his iPod, and he has favourites, but he tends to use it more to play games than listen. In any case, having someone select an "appropriate" playlist for you is a far cry from just being let loose in a lifetime's collection of vinyl. Marcus may have heard Slop by Charles Mingus, but he hasn't pored over his album sleeves, seen his funny little beard or wondered at his penchant for crazy titles.

I think Rodney is doing a much better job than I in communicating his love of music to his kids. The music I like has a similar status in our house to that which Dad's pipe smoking had in when I was little - it's a weird, hard to explain and somewhat secretive indulgence. Just now Elf came upstairs and caught the last minute of Leave Them All Behind by Ride. To my ears, those sixty seconds are a triumphant culmination of one of the great thumping noise-fests of the longhair shoe-gazing Brit guitar era, circa 1995. Maybe the sound of the square root of -1. Whereas Elf thought there was something horribly wrong with one of our appliances somewhere.

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