Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s unfortunate suicide. I remember when I had received the news of Cobain’s death: I was in eighth grade and I had just purchased In Utero only a week before. Not only was it the first Nirvana album I had bought, it was really the first time I bought an album because I liked the way it sounded. I often cite that action as the beginning of my personal, independent experience as a listener and consumer of music.
I learned about Nirvana a few years earlier because of Weird Al Yankovich’s excellent parody of “Smell’s Like Teen Spirit.” At the time my primary motivation for listening to music was either to laugh (hence Weird Al), or for the shock value of hearing cuss words used in music (I listened to a fair amount of gangster rap); but sometime in late 1993 or early 1994 I heard “All Apologies” on the radio and I liked it. So in March 1994 I walked into my local Wherehouse Music store and purchased In Utero.
Over the next 20 years my listening habits expanded to include punk rock, psychedelic rock, Bob Dylan, early music, opera & music theater, hardcore, EDM, illbient, disco, Harry Partch, metal, folk, barbershop, mircotonal, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I’ve become a composer, a performer, someone who thinks quite a bit about the phenomenon of music, and a lover of sound. When I consider where my life has gone in the 20 years, I often look to that moment when I purchased In Utero. What if I had not asserted my tastes that day? What if I had made a different choice? How different would my life be?