What kind of music do you like?  Most people don’t give the question much thought, while others feel they must have a soundtrack for their daily lives. I am in the later category.  I was curious if our musical preferences change as time passes.  The answer came in a study published last year.  Looking at user data from Spotify, an online music delivery platform, the researchers found that teens listen mostly to very popular tunes; that musical interests diversify in the 20’s; and by 33 years old on average, our musical tastes are set, with only a few being interested in discovering new material.  The author’s findings were interesting:

“Personified, ‘music was better in my day’ is a battle being fought between 35-year old fathers and teen girls — with single men and moms in their 20s being pulled in both directions.”

They also found that females tended to explore music longer than men, and that having children seemed to bring on the end of musical exploration.  You can see this study at http://tinyurl.com/naaub3n

My musical taste was never average, but it began the same as others, listening to pop radio.  While I grew similar tastes with my teen peers, my whole musical world was torn apart when I listened to the Weather Report’s Heavy Weather.  I had never heard anything like it.  This brilliant album, featuring five groundbreaking Jazz musicians who wrote paradigm-busting compositions, that allowed me to break free from that standard timeline of musical taste development, and chart a course that continues today, as I discover new and amazing music every day.

Duke Ellington, the great big band leader and jazz composer, once remarked, “If it sounds good, it is good”, and I have used that philosophy as I have explored a wide range of music compositions that spread from Americana and jazz; to classical and bluegrass; to rock and jam music; and even some eighties popular radio tunes.  I am especially interested in live recordings, both commercially produced and recorded by fans at concerts.

A whole community used to exist trading tapes, mostly material by the Grateful Dead, but other bands as well.  That was before the internet and digital music technology.  Nowadays, there is an abundance of live music out there for the download, legally by the way, you just have to know where to find it.  I have that source list, and my collection is comprised now of more that 50,000 tracks, 75% live material, that fills hard drives on my computer with multiple terabytes of musical data.  Couple these sources with what is available on services like Spotify, Nugent, or Apple Music, and there has never been more music is available, right at your fingertips.

For the past eight years I have been writing on these topics with a column at a monthly paper in Shepherdstown, WV.  I have explored many music genres through album reviews and interviews with musical performers; written features on local artists; explored how the music business has evolved since the iPod; and given readers roadmaps to finding amazing music for little or no cost.  This does not mean that I support pirating music, I do not—it rips off the artists, and believe me, with the changes in today’s music business, the many highly talented musician or band needs every payday that they can get.  Taylor Swift and other big name artists, mere commodities to their record labels, are but a tiny fraction of music today, driven on by the teen listeners who are still in their pop music phase.

I listen to a ton of music every week. I’ll give you my monthly picks for great new albums, whether in the form of short reviews or Spotify playlists; and talk about the amazing array of local or regional musical performances that will be happening at festivals and nearby venues.  I have some strong musical leanings, and maybe I can help you break free of your musical boundaries and discover new music.

Delfest is a great music festival that happens every Memorial Day weekend in Cumberland, MD.  A small Middleburg contingent has been heading up there for years now.  The event has become one of the most important annual live venues for Americana, bluegrass, and Jamgrass bands.  You can find out more about it at www.delfest.com.  To get you ready for the festival, check out my DelFest 2016 playlist at http://tinyurl.com/jf2vbkb .

Steve Chase lives in Unison and tries not to play the music too loud.

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