Wood varnish, modern dance, and New York City. Those are the three things that come to mind when I hear this.
Wood varnish: I am seven. My mom refinished…man. I lost count of the number of things she refinished in the house I grew up in. Our beautiful old upright piano, tables, chairs. Not to mention all of the other home improvement projects she had going on. A Michael Jones cassette was part of the music rotation she would put on the paint-splattered radio-tape player that kept her company when the fumes were too strong for a kid to deal with. Michael Jones was soon supplanted by Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” and I took “Pianoscapes” for myself. It heavily influenced my own early compositions. Don’t get me wrong – this music isn’t that great. But what it did do for a little kid writing her own stuff was make it okay to experiment with melodic changes, time signature changes, and rhythmic changes. It also made it okay to write “songs” that were more than ten minutes long. You’re welcome, neighbors.
Modern dance: I am ten. I took a bunch of different styles of dance when I was a kid but modern dance was the only one that I really got into because – surprise! – there aren’t a whole lot of rules. Perfect. One homework assignment was to create our own dance and set it to music. The person who came up with the most popular dance (decided by a very public vote) would choreograph a whole group routine. I used “Tapestry.” I did not win.
New York City: I am thirteen. For my thirteenth birthday, I got to go to New York City and visit my godmother. She lived by the courthouse in Manhattan and worked in the fashion industry. She was (and still is), very tall and very glamorous. She took me shopping to buy my very first make-up (Clinique – what’s up). She bought me my first pair of black cigarette pants. We ate escargot and went to the theater. It was incredible. We also went to a bookstore that had a CD section and I bought the CD version of the now six-year-old cassette tape. I put it on her CD player when we got back to her enormous apartment and I remember walking around her very modernist two-bedroom, looking at the city lights glowing in the dark, with this piece pouring out of the speakers. That’s a very happy memory.