Posts Tagged ‘music’

Real Life

23 June 2011

Dear J-

There is something intrinsically personal with music to the point where you can’t be assured of getting the right stuff just by reading reviews. Sometimes the album will grow on you, while others may exhibit a decided nostalgia depending on your own experiences. Case in point: let’s say Journey’s Only the Young, which in its best objective evaluations garners praise as another Journey song that doesn’t deviate much from the typical formula: guitar & Steve Perry singing to burst his lungs. Yet for me because they play it over the opening credits in Vision Quest and its iconic scenes from downtown Spokane and Riverfront Park I can’t help but flash back to skywalks and skating.

It reinforces the notion I’ve been kicking around in my head lately, your experiences make you just as unique as your fingerprints would. Your media consumption is driven in a way that makes us mutualy unintelligible especially given that we’ve spent our adult lives in different orbits and with different people. Although we may always have the same shared memories from growing up we may see them in different ways and the same memory can be a source of shame for me and pride for you. I’m wondering if I should go to the twenty-year high school graduation reunion, which is coming up next year already.

Twenty years does count for a lot. I’m now closer to finishing up my second twenty and I can’t say with precision that I haven’t grown as much from twenty to forty as from zero to twenty. We have such long roads ahead as adults still though maybe the realization that our midlife crises will take mundane forms such as excessive materialism and distant travel makes me think that despite all the differences in the past twenty perhaps we’re all growing more similar than ever. There’s only so much that can be done differently (diffidently) and the limits on vision and experience are already fading into distant view.

Mike

Twelve Again

22 October 2010

Dear J-

So for some reason I’m on an eighties rut with music and rather than listen to the radio, I’ve been moving albums to MP3s and bringing those along instead. Thus for the first time since high school I’m listening to Cosmic Thing (The B-52’s) and Kick (INXS) — albums we’d owned, but I’m pretty sure disappeared somewhere between Cheney and California. I suppose that all music is slickly packaged and marketed but at the risk of sounding like the old man I’m becoming, it’s nothing like what I hear today, where auto-tune and plastic looks rule the airwaves. I’ve said before how useless it is to compare favorite music; my music and your music and their music are generally three overlapping sets for different, intensely personal reasons.

This last one I got — Kick — is in the rotation partly because of X and partly for 1987. At that point, we’d just started listening to modern music (when you’re a kid, you don’t get to control the radio; more, we didn’t have our own portable radios to tune out with) and Kick was the first time I’d heard anyone swear on a recording (there it is, bold as day on the first track, Guns in the Sky)). So every time I hear it I flash back to being twelve years old and hoping that my parents don’t notice we’ve just bought a noisy album with that yelled-out expletive and, later, knowing that they’re not overly fond of it, being 1987, twelve, and full of swaggering posture: yeah-that’s-right, whatcha-gonna-do? It doesn’t hurt there’s nary a hint of filler on Kick; I’m still staggered by the number of singles that came out of that one album and in comparison, the followup X suffers: we got that one too but soon buried it far down the rotation, as Kick was that much more fun.

There’s an episode of The Simpsons where the teachers go on strike and the parents hire adults to teach the children; the preschoolers get Professor Frink, who when asked by a child to relinquish a toy, utters the immortal “You wouldn’t enjoy it on as many levels as me!” Indeed, the music is like that: there’s no way I can adequately explain all that happened in 1987 in a way that makes sense. Twelve — which doesn’t seem so long ago but is — was filled with change between boy and teen, starting new challenges and the only thing I could control was the music, that soundtrack on the movie in my head.

Mike

Internal Music

15 September 2010

Dear J-

I’m waking up this morning with the Beatles’ Mother Nature’s Son on my internal radio for some reason; it’s not as though I’ve listened to it recently, though. So of course I check the various devices littering my bag to see if one of those, maybe, has the song on it, but no luck (given that I only last week figured out how to create playlists, it’s a minor miracle that there’s any music at all). It’s not about what I have with me (I settled on Dance Hall Crashers instead) but the intensely personal nature of music: theVet and I generally agree on the movies we’d like to see (musicals and romantic comedies, which has led to discussions on how I’ve finally entered puberty as a thirteen-year-old girl) and television shows, but there is her music and mine with a great yawning gulf in between.

Part of it has to do with what you associate with those songs: for instance, I have memories of listening to Tripping the Live Fantastic (one of McCartney’s later live concert albums) as the first thing I spun up in my own stereo on headphones — that album’s now inextricably linked with that pride of ownership and privacy. Likewise, I got the Trainspotting soundtrack* album from my brother just before I left for grad school — it’s lumped in with those feelings of loneliness and alienation, being in Boston while the rest of my life remained on the West Coast, struggling with homework and research in those first few months, but filled with a roaring, defiant bravado: hey, I’m just as smart and able as the rest of these punks, damnit.

I wonder if that’s why mixtapes never seem to work as well as you’d imagine: there’s all kinds of emotions that dredge up for me when I play songs and without a shared context, say, the live cover that Dance Hall Crashers did of Tom Petty’s American Girl doesn’t make sense to anyone else in the world but you and me, J-. I don’t trust most reviews, as there’s no way to tell, really, what the reviewer’s personal biases are, but for music? Forget about it; there’s no way the sum of my experiences matches theirs.

Mike

* I love soundtrack albums, especially when they’re well-done compilations. It’s the reason that I regard Pretty in Pink as far superior to Sixteen Candles: that Pretty in Pink soundtrack is the best slice of 80s music I’ve ever invested in (and with that said, I’ve been eyeing the Some Kind of Wonderful soundtrack, another John Hughes-penned, Howard Deutch-directed effort). They’ve exposed me to artists I never would have otherwise have an opportunity to hear, like Sleeper (thanks, Trainspotting!), Dance Hall Crashers (Angus), and Save Ferris (10 Things I Hate About You).

Old Music

26 August 2010

Dear J-

I’ve been driving all week; the key to staying awake in the afternoons when you’ve conditioned your body to sleep by napping on the van is to do something requiring your mind to be engaged while driving.  If you don’t have someone to talk to — the sleeping lumps of passengers, so blissful when you’re riding and so annoying when you’re driving, don’t count — then the next best thing is to sing along with the radio.

With steering wheel-mounted controls, you no longer have to glance down at the radio to see where you are or what you’ve tuned, and this is where the world got a little sadder for me today:  there I am, like I was when it first came out, singing along to Katrina and the Waves Walking on Sunshine when I look down and see the channel’s set to the oldies station.  What other new songs do I remember will pop up next?  It was bad enough when Guns’n’Roses and Nirvana made the leap to Classic Rock, but now my music is invading the oldies channel.

I suppose it’s inevitable; the oldies I listened to were twenty to thirty years old, and the wheel turns around for my turn on the retread machine.  It’s the small things that have the most impact, it seems.  Next time I’m sticking with modern music stations, and plugging my ears when my music is used to flog products on TV.

Mike

Knowing Smile

25 April 2010

Dear J-

We actually didn’t finish Chitty Chitty Bang Bang until today, but we’ve been humming songs from it since. And it turns out that the belt I’d bought yesterday was too long, so it’s almost like I got to do yesterday over again (note to belt vendors: what happened to plain strips of leather, nicely finished on the edges, roughly an inch to an inch and a half wide?). The excitement of Friday is lost in the foreshadowing of the work week writ large on Sunday afternoon.

I wonder about the paucity of digital distribution solutions; I understand that it’s important to keep track of copyright and provide proper credit, but doesn’t it seem that the minor amount of potential theft would be outweighed by the benefits of not having to provide physical storage and supply. For some industries — music — digital distribution is an accepted norm; for others — movies — folks are still buying and renting DVDs instead of sending bits around (there’s a seedy air about torrents, no pun intended); and for still others — books — digital adherents are looked upon as heretical, despite being perfect candidates (relatively small amounts of data). After all, all those physical artifacts end up cluttering the house when you’re done with them (we’re not going to talk about the box of DVDs that were watched only once).

There is, after all, a lot of important information out there to be digested; life works and whole careers continue to come on market and impact other lives. Was it Newton or Galileo who said that they saw further because they had stood on the shoulders of giants? The easier it is to know, the more we will know.

Mike

Music Memories

31 October 2008

Dear J-

Here I am listening to music again thinking about iconic songs.  Not the anthem of a generation — for me and the rest of the 70s-born slackers, it might be something like the schizophrenia of Lithium — but those songs that put you in mind of something beyond the literal meaning.  For instance, Terence Trent D’Arby’s Wishing Well makes me think of the game Dark Castle — we usually had the radio going when we were on the computer, and for some reason, that song was always on when we were otherwise occupied dodging boulders or bats.

As for you, J-, I’ll never listen to Tom Petty in quite the same way; my whole litany of crushes could be set to an entire album of 80s music (if you haven’t yet started listening to Rubber Rodeo — dig up Anywhere with You).  Hollywood plays on it, too, but only in the most literal, banal of ways — the next time American tourists arrive in England to London Calling (The Clash), after having departed for the airport under the auspices of the catchy Vacation (The Go-Gos).

Maybe it explains the popularity of classic rock and oldies stations, but it sure doesn’t explain how it is we now consider 80s music a flashback already, and Nirvana shows up alongside Clapton and Led Zep.  With the prevalence of MP3 players now, though, your personal soundtrack need not deviate far from a greatest hits highlight album, but shouldn’t we give something new a chance to get onto the list?  If all I ever knew about Van Halen was the smoking cherub on the 1984 album cover, I’d have never become a believer in 5150 and its staggering total of memorable singles.

Mike


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