I long to be an expert. To be the “go-to guy” on something. But the prospects of being super-knowledgeable on something come and go with the passing winds of excited inspiration.
Music has always yielded the most exciting possibilities. But it hasn’t made me an expert yet.
I once found the full Rough Guide book on reggae music. It describes the full history and roots of the genre, describing several notable artists over decades and including reference to key songs. I found the book second hand and a thrilling notion came upon me: with this book in hand and the internet in my ears, I would become heavily acquainted with reggae music. That was almost ten years ago – I can’t say I’ve followed through with that plan. But I fully intend to some day.
Last year I acquired over 200 jazz related vinyl LP’s and singles. Some were retrospective box sets and compilations, often with brief artist histories. I was less ambitious this time about becoming an “expert” on jazz. That said, I did see it as an excellent crash course in the genre, a fascinating look into many of the names I’d heard referenced or briefly sampled in Ken Burns’ “Jazz” documentary series. I learned a lot; but I became no expert.
And just last month I came across about 100 hiphop cassettes from the late 80’s and early 90’s, dirt cheap at a garage sale. The notion of being expertly knowledgeable on rap music from that specific era (1988 to 1990 in particular) is appealing. But not quite as much as being a full-on historical “hiphop head”.
Similar opportunities have come my way. The past couple years have brought me several traditional Indian and Bollywood albums, on vinyl and cassette. I’ve also recently acquired Robert Millis’ “Indian Talking Machine” book, which looks at the history and culture of collecting very old 78rpm Indian records. It is very inspirational. But the cultural shift feels quite daunting in terms of fully learning and understanding various Indian artists. I may know who R.D. Burman and Lata Mangeshkar are in terms of Bollywood, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to recognize Sangit Vidyarnab Gopeswar Banerjee or Tiruvasanallur Narayanasami Iyer by name as easily as I might Oscar Peterson or C.L. Smooth. But it’s a fun notion just the same.
A really fun idea: earlier this year I proposed to my father that, given our shared love of doo wop music, we should work on becoming joint experts, using the internet (we live 12 hours apart) to share artists and songs. We have yet to begin, but I can’t wait. Hopefully this idea won’t collect dust like the chronologized stacks of hiphop tapes in front of my gas fireplace literally are.
And so it feels a moderate bummer that I don’t consider myself an expert on anything, at least in terms of music. But “expert” can be a relative term, certainly an imposing one. A lofty goal of a title. If you want, you can break down its definition a bit: an expert can be seen as someone who is highly knowledgeable on a given subject. But does that necessarily entail perfection? An all-encompassing knowledge? Not everything can be known about most anything. And the bigger the subject matter, the more there is to know. Or not know, as it were.
Running with this allowance, you could say I have a decent expertise in something: pro wrestling. My knowledge may not be encyclopedic; I may never have been in a wrestling ring myself. But I’ve been watching since I was a kid. I may have missed a few years here and there; I may have watched much more WWF/E than WCW (in terms of the biggest promotions). But it’s a form of entertainment I thoroughly enjoy that, given the time, I would watch a lot more of, both new and old.
That’s a key factor – I enjoy the history of it, watching matches from decades ago. I enjoy learning the personal histories of key figures, promotions and eras. I’ve watch documentaries, read books and listened to interviews. And I’ve never been shy about my VHS and DVD collection. I will readily admit that some wrestling fans are far, far more obsessive than I am, and far more knowledgeable. True experts.
But I like to think I could be called an expert. It’s not as hip a subject to be an expert on, but it’s something. And I can feel good about being somewhat of an expert on it. Fairly knowledgeable, at the least.
A go-to guy for sure.
© 2016 Andrew Hall Writes