A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.
Instead of providing an extended list for 1993, I rag on a number of critical favorites from the year. I’ve mellowed out about Björk’s Debut and U2’s Zooropa, but Siamese Dream and janet. are still overrated.
Duran Duran, The Wedding Album
Bill Frisell, Have a Little Faith
John Zorn / Naked City, Absinthe
Judy Dunaway and the Evan Gallagher Little Band, Judy Dunaway and the Evan Gallagher Little Band
Spiny Norman, Crust
The Love Gods, Hujja Hujja Fishla
Michael Nyman, The Piano
Wayne Horvitz / Pigpen, Halfrack
Emerson Sting Quartet, American Originals: Ives / Barber String Quartets
Other favorites from the year:
Kate Bush, The Red Shoes
Emmylou Harris, Cowgirl’s Prayer
Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Cypress Hill, Black Sunday
Digable Planets, Reachin’
Julee Cruise, The Voice of Love
Sting, Ten Summoner’s Tales
This time, I’m providing an extended list, and it demonstrates where I was as a listener and where I am.
That Favorite 10 is stuffed to the gills with some really avant-garde titles, the kind put together by a young person trying to be more cosmopolitan than his peers.
The extended list includes music that would have been ignored by the person who compiled the Favorite 10.
My younger self would have scoffed at my older present self for deigning to include hip-hop, and my older self would tell my younger self to examine what social pressures may be coming to bear for his opposition.
Younger self would complain about how hip-hop culture is fetishized by his ethnic cohorts, which older self would acknowledge but caution against succumbing to the racial dynamics of the country.
Younger self would have no idea what older self would be talking about, since younger self hadn’t yet moved to he Mainland US to see these dynamics in action.
All that to say maybe I’ve been resistant to hip-hop because the music that most appeals to me is made predominantly by upper middle class white men.
It’s taken 29 years for Michael Nyman’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat to enter my music collection.
I first encountered the chamber opera when it was first released in 1988. I read an article about it in Pulse! magazine (of course), and the main branch of the Hawaii Public Library acquired it for its new-fangled CD collection.
There was just one problem — my brother owned the only CD player in the house at the time, and he was loathe to let me use it.
So I listened to the work exactly once (when my brother was out of the house.) I had an inkling at the time it would be a work in which I could take interest, but after I returned the disc to the library, I never followed up.
It would be many years before I learned the source material was an Oliver Sacks book, and it would be longer still till I spotted that original recording at Everyday Music.
I’m glad I waited to listen to the work again.
I’ll be honest — I had no idea to what I was listening back in 1988. I was still a classical music neophyte, and my experience with modern classical music hadn’t yet expanded beyond Kronos Quartet.
I probably would have pretended to find it profound, only to neglect it years later.
But after a thorough college training, I can understand why I had that original inkling nearly three decades ago.
First, it’s a compelling story with a tight focus on its three characters — a renowned music professor, his wife and the doctor diagnosing him. As the doctor moves from one exam to another, the score evolves.
It helps Nyman is a tonal composer. I’m not sure this story would have been serviced well with a thornier score. The chamber instrumentation also suits the mostly internal dialog of the characters.
I remember following along with the libretto and getting engaged with the score. I did the same when I brought the album home again 29 years later.
I’m ambivalent about opera, but The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is one of the few works in the genre I can revisit.