I have been thinking a lot about music lately.
For so many of my past significant others, music has been A Huge Part Of Their Lives. It’s a rather odd common thread among the majority of them, though their actual music tastes rarely overlapped.
Comparing myself to them, I never felt like I was “a music person.”
This is compounded by the fact that, well, I don’t really like going to concerts.
The sort of concert where you can have a drink or a picnic with a friend is one thing. The sort of concert where I’m expected to sit there silently and just listen to the music is torture. I can’t sit still that long, and I can’t even focus on the music that long. Plus, you have to deal with half the people singing along (or maybe that’s just a folk music thing). I’ve had a few really good concert experiences, and I like the opening acts because I often discover new musicians I enjoy. But generally concerts aren’t my thing, and festivals less so. I’ll go if Favorite Musician is in town, but I won’t often go out of my way to go to one, or pay more than $30 to do so.
So, under this combined theory of comparison to the people in my life, an anti-concert-sentiment, and a really bad head for the names of musicians, you would think I was pretty solidly Not A Music Person.
But the reason why I’ve been thinking about this a lot, is because I think it’s categorically untrue, and this is more evident when I’m traveling and studying.
I have a bloody soundtrack to my life. I use music as a memory aid, as a calming mechanism, as way to trick my brain into focusing. While I gravitate towards strong lyrics, I don’t sit there and focus on the music. Instead, I go through phases of listening to the same few albums on repeat until it sinks in through the back door and becomes a part of my subconscious.
Currently, I am listening to Deb Talon (“Something Burning” and “A Bird Flies Out”). She has become my “I am reading, or I should be reading, important stuff I need to be focusing on” music. (Which is obviously working so well presently because this entry is decidedly not an analysis on the political theory of exceptions.) Some musicians I used for writing my recent term papers are Gillian Welch, Nikki Lane, Amanda Palmer, and my classic Tegan and Sara. I say classic because when I wrote my undergraduate thesis I just played the six albums I have of theirs whenever I was writing. To this day, I hear Tegan and Sara and think of my thesis. This is jarring in clubs or at parties, which is where most people play that duo.
I have a playlist that I put together when I was studying in Vietnam of music that reminded me of my Hollins girls that I’d listen to when I was homesick – to this day, any of those songs makes me think of sitting on the back of the van to class, staring out the window at the garbage dump outside the campus and missing Hollins. (Modest Mouse’s “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank” was also on heavy rotation during this time.)
Any Indigo Girls song reminds me of Candace and Alli, both from driving around Roanoke listening to them in their cars and from sitting on the lawn at Wolf Trap with the two of them, having a picnic. Ani Difranco reminds me of sitting next to [OMG I Have A Crush On Her] and all the awkwardness that comes with being a teenager (which might be why I don’t listen to her very much anymore).
Johnny Flynn is my commute from Alexandria to DC my first fall of working post university. I listened to Sia whenever I was trying to tune out the noise of the bus/train in India – twenty years from now, I will probably hear Sia and still be able to feel the rhythmic sway of the train over darkened unseen Indian countryside. Ingrid Michealson is just about every drive between DC and my family’s house this past summer. Zoe Keating is I need to Calm the Fuck Out or do a few sun salutations. Chris Pureka reminds me of the more mellow (and dramatic) side of Hollins. Adele is the walk to the bus stop here in Brighton. Flobots and Gorillaz is my younger sister, though Gorillaz doubles with memories of driving down to Charlottesville to visit my first college girlfriend. Firewater and Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” is an ex-boyfriend (the Jagged Little Pill reference is not for emo purposes: we belted out the lyrics on the road of a camping trip that is one of my favorite memories of that relationship). Sometimes it’s a genre – anything vaguely Shins or Weepies like reminds me of that girlfriend I mentioned. Both of those people stuck music on my hard drive that I am still working through or discovering.
Since October, I’ve discovered over ten new musicians. It doesn’t sound like a lot compared to some, but my music tastes have largely diverted from what they were a year ago before I started traveling and studying. I wonder what sort of reflections and memories they will create?
So no, I don’t (can’t) focus on the music.
Yet my memories are interwoven with music. Memories, which creates my past, which creates who I am today. What would they be without music?