Just one more note before leaving yesterday's topics—if you soccer fans are not too miffed at me! :-)
There's an old saying—"You can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family." It's like that with cultural choices too, isn't it? We have the ones we're born into, and we have the ones we adopt by choice.
I have a good friend, Kim K., who has become a football/soccer fan. He's American, grew up watching American football and baseball. International football has really been for him. He's adopted it enthusiastically, and follows mainly the British league, whatever that's called (Premier League? Sorry, I'm way out of my element here and won't know many particulars). He's almost annoyed that I won't see the light and become a fan too. Well, "annoyed" is putting it too strongly. But he loves the game.
For him, though, it's adopted culture. He loves it because it happens to fit him, not because he grew up with it.
"Taking to it like a duck takes to water" is another expression that pertains to this subject. Somebody famous—I'm forgetting who (was it one of the Bauhaus artists?)—said that when he discovered Buddhism he realized he'd been a Buddhist all his life. He just took to it. It fit. Another example: a high school classmate of mine now lives in France and writes literary criticism—in French. Long way from home. (I admire people who can relocate like that. I don't know how they do it.)
I think I'm kinda big on adopted cultures. I find what I like and then make it mine. I grew up on rock 'n' roll, for instance, but it never really truly "took," at least in hindsight. I thought the Beatles were my touchstone band when I was a kid (age seven on), but I never even heard Revolver until I was in my 20s and I've never owned a copy of The White Album, not to this day. Some fan, huh?
It wasn't till my brother Scott introduced me to jazz that I found my own real musical culture. The core of the music I love is American jazz from about 1955 to 1960 and spreading out in either direction from there. That was the era of my birth, and it wasn't part of my family's culture. I've listened to far more of it, know it much more deeply, and love it more than I ever did with the rock music that was supposed to be my "native culture."
Too early to tell if pool is my sport. Might just be a fad, who knows. Personal fads—I do go through those. (As for people who say Americans should follow soccer, though, it's just as difficult as Europeans or South Americans following American football. It's not in the papers, not on TV [usually], not in the discussions at work on Monday. Not in the social fabric or the cultural bloodstream.)
You can relate this to photographic cultures if you try, too. I hear from people all the time who are devoted to particular practices or methods—to name just a very few: night photography; view cameras; toy cameras; underwater photography; architectural photography; "critter photography" (my term—wildlife photography using very long lenses); street photography. I both admire and kinda envy people who have the freedom and the desire to just pursue one thing—doing it because they love it, because it's "home" to them.
I think it's nice to have adopted cultures. Lucky, even. Identity by volition instead of by simply following the herd (not that there's anything wrong with that). They're things you consciously choose rather than what you've born into or what everyone around you is doing.
Charlie Haden 1937–2014
Take Charlie Haden, the great jazz bassist who died on Friday at the age of 76. I'm listening to the audio obituary by Tom Cole right now (go to WPFW > Available Shows > G-Strings > July 13th—thanks to Bob Burnett for this). He was the only chordal player in Ornette Coleman's groundbreaking quartet, and played with many different people and as a leader.
Oddly enough, though, Charlie Haden grew up on a farm in Iowa in a country & western performing family! As a very small child he sang (with a yodel) and was called Cowboy Charlie. From there to Ornette Coleman is more than a hop skip and a jump.
He came a long way from his native culture to find his adopted one.
If you don't know Charlie and would like a sample, try one of his two lovely records with Hank Jones, Steal Away or Come Sunday.
And think for a minute if you have a particular photographic culture you're really into—if you do, you're one of the lucky ones.
(Thanks to Bob)
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Featured Comments from:
John: "Interesting observations. I'm one confused puppy in that case: in photography, I can't specialize. It's just not in me, although there are areas that don't interest me. In life and cultures, I'm all over the board. At heart, I'm Dutch, but turned away from that country 25 years ago. I have since lived in America (three times, including now), Switzerland, Cyprus and Austria and plan to move to Europe at some point again, though not Holland. On top of that, I'm married to a woman who's half Japanese and half Arabic. As I said, one confused puppy...."
Chris Kurmann: "I think the cultural background may run stronger in some places than in others. I'm Swiss and we have a small but lively folkloric singing tradition which includes what we consider to be real yodeling. Now I'm not really into this at all and spend a lot of my time and energy on music from all over the planet but when I hear traditional Swiss singing I feel my chest tighten and the tear ducts moisten ever so slightly. I simply can't help it. Strangely enough this seems to be common. There is a story that during Napoleonic times the French military banned yodeling as it got the Swiss mercenaries so homesick that they would desert or even die."
Dennis Dunkerson: "Sometimes reading TOP makes me really sad. I had not heard of Haden's passing. I also had not realized than he was a fellow Iowa farm boy. My first encounter with him was in a record store in New York City, a long way from the farm, where I picked up a copy of 'Ballad of the Fallen,' which had just come out. Like Emily Dickinson, it has been part of my culture from first hearing. Time to dig it out again."
John McMillin: "Charlie's well worth mentioning here, and everywhere that American music is enjoyed. Out of his many achievements, I'd recommend a recent album that knits together Haden's folksy past and his experimental side. 'Rambling Boy' unites the whole Haden family, including his triplets who have strong musical careers of their own. Every other song is a traditional number, done faithfully and family-style, while an alternating set of songs offer more eclectic sounds. Pat Metheny plays a jaw-dropping lead on 'Wildwod Flower,' Bruce Hornsby sings an eerie, haunted '20-20 Vision,' and master dobroist Jerry Douglas adds a steely twang throughout. All three guest stars come together for 'The Hills of Athenry,' a tragic ballad of the Irish famine that builds and soars right up where birds fly. There's an old clip of young Charlie singing on the radio, before old Charlie sings 'Shenandoah' in his shaky, damaged voice. It's the story of a hard life, well lived. 'Rambling Boy' is the one Haden album I would never be without."