Thursday, August 21, 2014


Last night as I got ready for bed, I took the new laptop upstairs with me (amazing what a not-five-year-old computer has in battery life! actual wirelessness!) and poked around the music widget.  Of course, to set up my own playlists requires making some part of myself visible on Teh Intarwebs and potentially even spending MONEY, things my friends and family know to be anathema to my strong luddite spirit, but I did learn you can noodle good tunes out of the thing gratis and without sign-in.  And so, as naturally I would, I chose Bowie for the maiden tune-age (if you don’t count this …), and enjoyed "Where Are We Now" while the tub filled.

The widget suggested OMD after that (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark), which was okay, but I didn’t stick that suggested tune through to the end.  For the bath, the not-exactly-obvious choice of Symphony X’s Paradise Lost, which I haven’t actually picked up yet.  I’m an inveterate non-purchaser of music; I still have all my old cassettes, and the other half of my music collection is on CD.  Though there are MP3s somewhere in my world, it’s only because digital copies came with a CD or perhaps two, but I have no idea how to cope with them, and nope I’ve never owned an MP3 player.

So, as you might guess, there is actually very little music in my life, which is a pity, because I do love music, and can be carried away under its currents or on its waves just as much as anyone.  I listen to the radio at work – the “we play anything” station which I have to assume has ben xeroxed across the nation just like all the other themes, which have less and less differentiation for my ears the older I get – and NPR or a sadly limited array of rarely-changed CDs in the car.

In many ways, I am staunch about radio music.  I grew up on FM and even mom’s AM, and the idea of not controlling 100% of the music in my life still appeals, particularly the more I realize how few people have that experience anymore.  Tunes come up which I like or that bring back memories, things I know I’d never take the effort to purchase for myself if I did control my entire musical experience, and I enjoy the surprises.  Tunes I hate come up, too, of course – it took me a full day to get “Put Me In, Coach” out of my head earlier this week, and a more detestable track is as difficult to imagine as it is undesirable to try.  But the bad makes the good more fun, and the idea of never ever having to hear anything I don’t want to exhausts me even in concept.

I used to have a great little stereo, purchased at the original Circuit City store in all the world, with my dad, who bought me The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” to go with it.  I lived downtown then, in a de-lux apartment in the sky overlooking a courtyard often used for weddings, and so during my two summers in this home – and owing to the turn-of-the-millennium time period I lived there – I was often treated, through my many many huge open windows, to The Electric Slide and (even *I* shudder) The Macarena.  I didn’t try to out-blast these celebrations, but I will state that my defense tended to be attempts to at least drown out these sounds within my own walls, with this cute little stereo that had a slot-machine game in its digital display.

Some of the most powerful memories of reading in my entire life have me ensconsed in my grandmother’s big antique chair near the front door in my big, light, airy flat, with David Bowie’s “Hours” and Fiona Apple’s “Tidal” on random, mixing it up together as I re-read the Kristin Lavransdatter series from a used hardback copy I bought, with onion skin pages and warmth and light surrounding me in the atmospheric aura of that music.

I remember that reading of Lavransdatter all the time.  The novels were originally given to me by my aunt L., when I was about nineteen.  I enjoyed but was slightly puzzled by them at that age, found them dense and a little bit strange, but I was definitely drawn in.  Definitely a seminal experience in histfic – for me, or for anyone – and by age thirty I wanted to rediscover and reassess them.  And the experience was so immersive, with music surrounding the hours (hah) spent in Norway, cold or jealous or fiercely maternal, or ageing toward heaven.  This, too, of all the re-run reads of my lifetime, was an illustration of how a nineteen-year-old virgin’s experience of literature is so different from that of a woman who’s been through marriage and divorce, and learned a little about guilt and turned toward hope and faith.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with being a nineteen-year-old girl, but the reading when I was older was far more involving and enjoyable.

And it was so wrapped up in music.

Mr. X has always placed a very high premium on music – and, of course, it was thinking of him that got me playng SymX last night.  I bought their “Odyssey” years back, before one of the three abortive times he was supposed to come home, and the acoustic stretch of one piece, where he sings of twenty years gone and missing the rolling hills of Ithaca (and his love) still cuts me about as deep as The Brandenberg Concerto on Wendy Carlos’ “Switched On Bach”, or a certain very old punk track called “Code Blue” do for other reasons.

It may be the very extent to which music gets to me emotionally that gives me the excuse to avoid prioritizing it and collecting it.  It may just be my laziness in repairing the CD trays on that cute old stereo (I do still have – and which would play the radio just fine, or even those cassettes of mine).  Come to it, I have an array of turntables and receivers curated and in care, from my brother, my teenage years, my mom and dad.  Their turntable is a beautiful 70s state of the art piece with shining aluminum buttons on a wooden cabinet, which I suspect set them back quite a bit 40 years back and would turn many a collector green.  I have space for them all to be hooked up.  Indeed, I think my brother’s still is, from the one time I set it up in order to listen to the cassette (seriously, in 2003 the church was still using that technology) of our dad’s memorial, which I was going to burn onto CD for the family.  That didn’t happen.  But mom got the CDs a couple or three years ago.  And I’ve never listened to the tape but that one time.  Never listened to the CD at all.

The more I think about this, the more sense it makes to set up one or more of these stereophonic antiques, as I’m throwing a party somewhat soon.  (SHHHHH – don’t tell my mom!  It’s for her 75th!)  One more item to add to the list – eine kleine tag musik, for an afternoon do.

The tune that brought on this post, and all these memories and plans, is "Where Are We Now", in which you can hear both the age of Bowie’s voice, the tiny roughness of his vocal chords not born of sounding edgy, but of being a man past sixty.  It came on last night, and I carried out a bunch of CDs to the Prius this morning – Next Day, of course (listened to "Where Are We Now" twice before I got out of my car and came in to the office), the Fiona, and even some Adele.

Whether I’ll ever get music into my life outside the transistor at the desk and the player in the car – ahh, if only Mr. X were around to encourage me!  But I can see putting on a bit of background before the birthday surprises (maybe even something mom would LIKE – Southern Culture on the Skids leaps nimbly to mind).

(By the way, no actual vid here, just this image and the track, which is beautiful.)

I love music.  I miss music.  I’m even a little afraid of its power.

That’s got to recommend reassessing its place, and my use of it, in my life and home.

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