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0751 Describing One’s Taste in Music

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 751: Describing One’s Taste in Music.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 751. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in the City of Los Angeles, California.

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This episode is a dialogue between Arturo and Ling talking about “styles of music,” things people like in music. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Arturo: What are you listening to?

Ling: Some new music. You want to hear it?

Arturo: All right. That’s pretty mellow, kinda bluesy, isn’t it? It’s got an interesting indie feel.

Ling: Do you like it?

Arturo: It’s all right. I like more funky, dance music myself, but this is okay. It’s not too depressing.

Ling: That’s faint praise.

Arturo: No, no, I do like it. I guess I’m usually in the mood for more up-tempo music, something with a driving beat. I’m a hard-core MC-Quillan fan, if that’s any indication.

Ling: Oh, I see, so you don’t really like acoustic music much.

Arturo: It’s just not my thing, you know?

Ling: Yeah, that’s too bad.

Arturo: Why?

Ling: That was a track I recorded last week.

Arturo: This is your music? In that case, I love it.

Ling: You’re just saying that.

Arturo: No, really, it’s growing on me. In fact, I want to hear more. How about if I bring over some dinner on Saturday and you can play me a few more tracks?

Ling: You don’t mind?

Arturo: Believe me, I’ll be all ears.

[end of dialogue]

Arturo begins by saying, “What are you listening to?” Ling says, “Some new music. You want to hear it?” Notice she doesn’t say, “Do you want to hear it?” She’s speaking very informally. Sometimes people drop or eliminate the “do” in this kind of expression: “You want to eat?” “Do you want to eat?” Ling says, “You want to hear it (you want to hear my music)?” Arturo says, “All right (okay).” He’s listening to it and he says, “That’s pretty mellow, kinda bluesy, isn’t it?” “Mellow” (mellow) means calm, quiet, very, we might say, “tranquil.” Something that is very peaceful is mellow. Arturo says that Ling’s music is mellow, but also it’s kind of bluesy (bluesy). “Bluesy” is an adjective that comes from “blues” (blues), which is a type of music formally called “the blues.” It’s a little sad sometimes; it’s often about things that are sad. When someone says, “I’m feeling blue,” or, “I’ve got the blues,” they mean they’re feeling sad, they’re depressed. So, blues music is often about things that are sad or depressing. It was a style of music created in the early 20th century by African Americans here in the United States.

Arturo says that Ling’s music’s got an interesting indie feel. “Indie” (indie) is a short form of “independent.” “Independent” here refers to a small record company, a company that makes CDs or MP3s and sells them. Usually, the word “indie” refers to a kind of music that is done by lesser-known artists, singers who aren’t necessarily very famous, singing music that isn’t as popular as the kind of music you might hear on the radio. So, “indie,” in referring to music, is that kind of music, but you could also have indie films – movies, movies made not with millions and millions of dollars, but with a lot less money, less famous actors, but often about things that are perhaps more interesting than the movies you see in the movie theater. So that’s “indie.”

Ling says, “Do you like it?” Arturo says, “It’s all right (it’s okay). I like more funky, dance music myself.” “Funky” (funky) means cool, hip, interesting, unusual. It’s a very broad adjective that could be used for lots of different things. It was more popular, I think, in the 70s and 80s than it is now, but I guess you’ll still hear people talk about something being “funky,” someone my age perhaps. “Dance music” is music that you would hear in a discotheque; it usually has a very strong base line – a strong beat: bump bump bump bump bump bump – that sort of thing. And, I guess that’s easier for people to dance to. I’m not sure, I don’t go to discotheques, what we actually more commonly now would just call “clubs.” I’m not a dance club kind of person, but for some people that’s what they like to do. Of course when I was younger, well, you couldn’t get me off the dance floor! The “dance floor” is the place where you dance, meaning I loved to dance so much I was always dancing – dancing, dancing, dancing, bump bump bump.

Anyway, back to reality. Arturo says, “It’s not too depressing,” describing Ling’s music, meaning it’s not too sad. Ling says, “That’s faint praise.” “Faint (faint) praise” is when someone says something to you that sounds like a compliment but it really isn’t. You are saying that, well, it’s okay, but you’re really kind of criticizing the person. So, when Arturo says that Ling’s music is not too depressing he’s making it sound like it’s a compliment, but it’s really a criticism. That’s why Ling says, “That’s faint praise.”

Arturo says, “No, no, I do like it.” He really is complimenting her, he says. I’m thinking Arturo may be interested romantically in Ling, so of course he doesn’t want to insult her. He says, “I do like it. I guess I’m usually in the mood for more up-tempo music, something with a driving beat.” “To be in the mood for (something)” means to want to do something at a certain moment. You may ask your husband or wife or friend, “What are you in the mood for for lunch today?” And they could say, “I’m in the mood for Japanese food.” “I’m in the mood for French food,” or Korean or Chinese or whatever kind of food you feel like – that you want to eat right now. Well, Arturo is usually in the mood for up-tempo music. The “tempo” of the music is, roughly speaking, how fast it goes. “Up-tempo” would be music that moves very fast, at a fast rhythm or beat. Arturo says he likes music with a driving beat. A “driving beat” is similar to what I was talking about when I talked about dance music; it’s something that has a very strong, repeating, usually fast beat – bump bump bump bump – the sort of thing you would hear in dance music, what used to be called “techno music” (techno), that had that kind of driving beat. It was a kind of song that you would – or music that you would dance to. Is it still called techno music? I…I don’t know.

Arturo says, “I’m a hard-core MC-Quillan fan, if that’s any indication.” If you are “hard-core” about something you are very enthusiastic about it, you are fully committed or dedicated to it, you are a big fan of something. “I’m a hard-core Bruce Springsteen fan.” I love Bruce Springsteen, I could listen to his music all day, I go to his concerts, I own all of his CDs and records and all that sort of thing. That’s to be “hard-core.” In this case, Arturo says he’s a hard-core MC-Quillan fan. The “MC” is the person in charge of some ceremony or some event, but here it’s the person in charge of the music. So, “MC-Quillan” would be someone whose name was Quillan, but who was a “rapper,” somebody who did a lot of rap music, kind of like me back 20 years ago, they called me MC-Quillan. I won’t actually rap for you however, and you should be thankful for that! Arturo says, “I’m a hard-core MC-Quillan fan, if that’s any indication.” We use that phrase, “if that’s any indication,” to show that we’ve just given an example of the description or the explanation that we gave previously.

Ling says, “Oh, I see, so you don’t really like acoustic music much.” “Acoustic” (acoustic) is music that doesn’t have any electric guitars or electronic instruments. It’s just, say, a guitar or a violin, but not an electric guitar – a regular guitar, if you will. Arturo says, “It’s just not my thing, you know?” When someone says, “it’s not my thing,” or, “it’s not his thing,” in this case they mean it’s not something that you really like or enjoy. The music of Andrea Bocelli is not my thing. He’s a very good singer, I’m sure. Don’t get mad, don’t send me emails saying you love Andrea Bocelli, I’m sure he’s a wonderful singer. He’s, of course, a famous Italian singer – popular singer, as well as a classical singer. He’s just not my thing, okay?

Ling says, “Yeah, that’s too bad.” Arturo says, “Why?” “That was a track I recorded last week,” Ling says. A “track” is a song on an album or a CD. Arturo says, “This is your music? In that case, I love it.” Remember I said Arturo is interested romantically in Ling, I think. Ling says, “You’re just saying that,” meaning you don’t really believe what you are saying, that’s not really the truth. Arturo says, “No, really, it’s growing on me.” When we say something “grows on you” we mean you are starting to like it; you didn’t like it in the beginning, but the more that you have it or experience it you like it more and more. The music is growing on Arturo, he says, “In fact, I want to hear more. How about if I bring over some dinner on Saturday and you can play me a few more tracks?” Ling says, “You don’t mind?” meaning that’s okay, that you would come over and listen to more of my music. Arturo says, “Believe me, I’m all ears.” The expression “all ears” means very eager or wanting very much to hear something or to listen to someone. Someone is saying, “I have a problem. Can I ask your advice?” You could say, “I’m all ears,” meaning yes, I will listen to you completely and closely and carefully. “Ears” has a number of different other expressions that can be used with it, and other meanings. Take a look at our Learning Guide for some of them.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Arturo: What are you listening to?

Ling: Some new music. You want to hear it?

Arturo: All right. That’s pretty mellow, kinda bluesy, isn’t it? It’s got an interesting indie feel.

Ling: Do you like it?

Arturo: It’s all right. I like more funky, dance music myself, but this is okay. It’s not too depressing.

Ling: That’s faint praise.

Arturo: No, no, I do like it. I guess I’m usually in the mood for more up-tempo music, something with a driving beat. I’m a hard-core MC-Quillan fan, if that’s any indication.

Ling: Oh, I see, so you don’t really like acoustic music much.

Arturo: It’s just not my thing, you know?

Ling: Yeah, that’s too bad.

Arturo: Why?

Ling: That was a track I recorded last week.

Arturo: This is your music? In that case, I love it.

Ling: You’re just saying that.

Arturo: No, really, it’s growing on me. In fact, I want to hear more. How about if I bring over some dinner on Saturday and you can play me a few more tracks?

Ling: You don’t mind?

Arturo: Believe me, I’ll be all ears.

[end of dialogue]

The script for this episode was written by our own mellow scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse. Oh, yeah!

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan, copyright 2011 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
mellow – calm; tranquil; quiet; not very exciting or enthusiastic

* After spending the last three nights at parties, Becca was looking forward to a mellow night at home.

bluesy – related to a style of music known as “the blues,” which is a little bit sad and was created by African Americans in the early 1900s.

* Of course you’re going to feel sad if you always listen to bluesy music. Why don’t you listen to something happier?

indie – independent; a small company that produces music and takes a lot of risks on unusual music and unknown performers; not one of the large music companies

* Many young musicians find it easier to get contracts with indie music producers rather than the big companies.

funky – hip; cool; modern; interesting; unusual

* Shelby was wearing a really funky orange and purple skirt with silver stars.

dance music – music that people like to dance to; music created to help people dance, usually with a clear rhythm or beat

* This party would be a lot more fun with some good dance music.

depressing – sad; making one feel sad for no particular reason

* It’s so depressing when a pet dies.

faint praise – very weak support or admiration for something, possibly even criticizing something

* The other employees had faint praise for Marcos’ proposal.

in the mood for – wanting to have or do something at the moment

* Are you in the mood for pizza or sushi?

up-tempo – with a fast speed, rhythm, or beat; happening quickly

* Choi played an up-tempo version of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” but it would have sounded better if he had played it more slowly.

driving beat – with a rhythm that has a strong repeating beat that seems to push the song forward, not letting it slow down

* The bass player and the drummer work together to produce a strong, driving beat.

hard-core – extreme; very much; fully dedicated or committed to something

* Marissa is a hard-core vegan who won’t eat meat or eggs, drink milk, or wear leather or silk.

if that’s any indication – a phrase used when one wants to indicate that whatever was just explained is an example of what one is talking about

* Is Samantha generous? Well, she just gave $40,000 to the local food bank, if that’s any indication.

acoustic – related to string instruments (guitars, violins) that do not use electronics or technology to change the sound or make it louder

* Do you play acoustic guitar or electric guitar?

not (one’s) thing – not something that one likes or enjoys; not one of one’s interests; not something that one is interested in

* There’s nothing wrong with skiing, but it’s just not my thing.

track – one song on an album or CD

* This CD has a lot of great songs, but the third track is my favorite.

to just say (something) – to say something that one does not fully believe or agree with, usually because one knows that it is what the other person wants to hear

* - You are really strong!

* - You’re just saying that. I know I need to work out more.

to grow on (someone) – to become more appealing or attractive to someone over time; for a person to begin to like something

* Quentin didn’t like that paint color at first, but it’s growing on him.

all ears – very eager to hear something or listen to someone; willing to listen

* As the presenter prepared to announce the awards, the audience members were all ears.

Comprehension Questions
1. What kind of music might MC-Quillan perform?
a) Quiet, classical music.
b) Up-tempo music.
c) Opera.

2. What does Arturo mean when he says, “I’ll be all ears”?
a) He’s going to listen to her music very carefully.
b) He’s going to listen to many different types of music.
c) He’s going to ask all his friends to listen to the music.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to grow on (someone)

In this podcast, the phrase “to grow on (someone)” means to become more appealing or attractive to someone over time, or for a person to begin to like something: “Carla hated running at first, but it grew on her and now she loves it.” The phrase “to grow out of (something)” means for a child to no longer fit into a piece of clothing: “When Traci grew out of her clothes, they were passed down to her younger sister.” The phrase “to grow out of (something)” can also mean to lose interest in something as one becomes older: “How old were you when you grew out of playing with dolls?” Finally, the phrase “to grow out of (something)” can mean to be created or begin to exist as a result of something else: “Jake’s desire to become a doctor grew out of his passion for helping other people.”

all ears

The phrase “all ears,” in this podcast, means to be very eager to hear something or listen to someone: “Tell us about your trip! We’re all ears!” The phrase “to keep (one’s) ears open” means to always be listening and hoping to hear some useful information: “Please keep your ears open for any news about the hiring decision.” The phrase “to be up to (one’s) ears in (something)” means to have a lot of something, especially a lot of work to do: “We’re up to our ears in bills, and we don’t have enough money to pay them all!” Finally, the phrase “to go in one ear and out the other” is used to describe how someone hears something but then forgets it right away: “When Alicia asks her husband to do something, he says he’ll do it, but it’s in one ear and out the other.”

Culture Note
Major and Indie Record Labels

A “record label” is the name of the company that produced a song or album, and its name and “logo” (an image representing an organization or business) appears on the CD. The largest record labels are “referred to as” (called) “major labels.” The major labels have more “funding” (money), larger “distribution networks” (connections needed to send music to many different stores), and powerful marketing departments that can “promote” (advertise) new music. Signing a contract with a major label “virtually” (almost; pretty much) guarantees “commercial success” (profitability; the ability to make money from selling something).

Smaller, independent music producers, more commonly known as “indie” record labels, don’t have as much funding, power, or “reach” (ability to communicate with a large number of people) as the major labels. However, their small size gives them some advantages. Indie labels are able to specialize in specific “genres” (types of music) and can work with “performing artists” (singers, musicians and actors) who are “pushing the envelope” (moving beyond the limits or expectations in a certain field).

“Whereas” (while, used for contrasting two ideas) major record labels need to produce popular music that will reach a very large national or international audience, indie record labels can focus on reaching a smaller, more specialized, and “devoted” (committed) audience. This lets the artists be more “experimental” (try new things) and creative.

Many musicians and musical groups that begin their career with indie record labels end up signing a contract with major labels once they become popular. In other cases, major labels buy the indie record label as the size of its “audience” (listeners and customers) grows. But some artists are able to succeed nationally or even internationally with only the “backing” (support) of an indie label.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - a