How a mother's series of home videos
became a son's music.
In November 1987, Margaret Moore of Toronto shelled out $30 to rent a top-of-the-line RCA video camera, and interviewed her two sons, aged 8 and 10. She asked them about their likes and dislikes, their plans for the future, their everyday life.
Inspired by British director Michael Apted's "Up" series, she continued to interview her sons every five years, eager to document the changes in their personalities and mentalities as they grew up. What she also documented, perhaps without realizing it, was her sons' changing relationships with herself, and the family's own ups and downs brought on by adolescence, unexpected pregnancy, university, and struggles for independence.
In November 2007, 20 years after that first recording, one of Margaret's sons revisited those tapes, and used the storyline of two decades of family life as the emotional basis for his new electronic album, "Today Is..."
On his third independently-produced work, Toronto-based electronic artist A.M. has used various soundclips from those interviews and woven them into songs that reflect many aspects of growing up; from the child-like joy of tracks like "Shoulder Pads & Shiny Shoes" to the teenaged turbulence of "Ommagod".
"I always try to make my music as accessible as possible, but anyone who grew up in Canada the 1980s will really be able to relate to elements of this album," says A.M. "There's a song inspired by Canadian children's musician Bob Schneider, who I listened to a lot as a kid, and another song based on a scene from the original Degrassi TV series. A lot of the tunes have a subtle 1980s feel to them." All of which makes "Today Is..." as much of a time capsule as it is the story of A.M.'s family.
Delving into one's family's past isn't something that many people would consider an enjoyable project. "It's definitely a lot more personal than my last project,â€ says A.M., referring to "Underground", in which he used subway sounds to create his music. "But all great music tells a story, and great stories are found everywhere; I don't know any family whose story isn't dramatic and compelling."
"Compelling" is an apt description of A.M.'s music; samples and synthesizers mingle with a wide array of live instruments to create atmospheric soundscapes that are at times playful, at times frantic, at times introspective...a bit like growing up.
The music on "Today Is..." reflects the maturity that comes from looking back at 20 years of your life. The last song, "Come Back", acknowledges the difficulty of coming to terms with rocky times in a family's life. Over a ghostly piano and swelling strings, a female voice echoes the paradox, "if you don't go, you can't come back." A.M. agrees that you have to be able to look back on your life without regret in order to be happy. "In a family, there's no time and no room for regret. People might make decisions or take risks that lead them in unexpected directions, but in the end, you always come back to your family."