I did know, or would at least have guessed, that David Bowie and Prince were singers, and in talking about them I recognised the line "Ground control to Major Tom" and the phrase "The entity formerly known as Prince", but otherwise I knew little about them and the outpouring of emotion at their deaths was rather a mystery to me. More generally, questions such as "name the ten albums that most influenced you as a teenager" aren't really meaningful to me, since my teenage years were largely music-free.
I have a few music memories from my early years. I remember my parents listening to songs by country and folk singers such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, some of which stuck in my mind. I also remember a few songs (such as Moon of Mamaku) from when I was nine and went to Gospel Oak school in London for a term. And the song Any Dream Will Do is irrevocably associated for me with my fifth grade teacher, Mrs Halliday, and how sad I was when she left part-way through the year.
My parents had some interest in classical music, but much less so than my grandfather Wolfgang and aunt Gabi. Again from my primary school years, I remember Rimsky Korsakov's Scheherezade and Dvorak's New World Symphony because they were on cassettes (I even remember they were purple and yellow) rather than scratchable vinyl and so I was allowed to play them myself. My broader exposure to classical music really only started in my late teens, inspired by my bushwalking companion Vic and my step-father Peter.
In my early teens my mother took my sister and me to recorder classes — with a real recorder player, not as a default instrument — but I never took to it. Most of my teenage exposure to music and most of the popular music I am familiar with can be traced to specific people: Colin Davis, a chess-playing friend who used to stay with us when he came to Sydney, was a Beatles fanatic; Madonna and Billy Joel I associate with Adrian and Danielle Browne, family friends we spent a lot of time with; and They Might be Giants will always remind me of my friend David Hogan (dhog).
I took up Javanese gamelan in my mid-twenties and have played that regularly since. Throw anything new at me and I still struggle to find my feet — I often feel incompetent next to some of the professional musicians I play with, who seem to effortlessly pick up new melodic lines or rhythms — but I have acquired some domain-specific skills. I can still remember Sarah Weiss looking at me dubiously after a brief clapping test before I first joined the Sydney Uni gamelan group twenty five years ago, but now I'm one of Pete Smith's preferred peking players, so I must have learned something about subdividing at some point.
Camilla studied piano and music theory, and is serious enough a singer to have done a choir directing course. And Helen is going to have a vastly more musical childhood than me. She loves singing and does that with Oxford Youth Choir as well as with her school choir. She's also having piano lessons. I haven't got her to do much at gamelan yet — her favourite part is handing around the chocolates at break time — but she's at least heard a reasonable range of non-Western music. She was also quite taken by Balinese music and dance.