Archive for May, 2006

The music that defines you

21 May, 2006

One thing that almost everyone seems to love is music. It’s pretty surprising to hear someone say they don’t like music, though I have encountered such unusual people on rare occassions. Of course, for some people, music is a great passion and plays a central role in life, and for others, it’s something to bob your head to, to dance to, to get stuck in your head for a while and then be forgotten completely. I think for nearly everyone though, there are songs, artists, and albums that define certain periods or moments in their life. It’s an art form and medium of entertainment that’s more directly connected to people emotionally than nearly anything else.

Personally, nothing defines me musically more than The Beatles, Elliott Smith, and Wilco. Of course, Hank Williams, Sr., Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Pavement, and dozens and dozens others, are close friends in the (metaphorical) social network of my life, but the former three are my nuclear family. That’s not to say I identify because I drop acid like Lennon, suffer from horrifying childhood memories like Mr. Smith, or suffer the kind of migraines that certainly must have inspired Jeff Tweedy to put ten minutes of (very beautiful, of course…) static at the end of “Less Than You Think”. Rather, it’s through their music, and only mediately with them, that I feel this familial bond. Those musicians may be my musical family, but the music itself is my blood.

So, what album am I, what album are you? I’ve always been more White Album than Sgt. Pepper, more A Ghost Is Born than Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (though I love them all). I imagine some people out there must listen to Notorious B.I.G. and feel, “Yes, that’s me, that’s my album.” Or, “John Denver, yeah, man, that’s me.” It doesn’t really mean they’re all about what Biggie was out, or John Denver. You don’t need Puffy (P. Diddy, sorry), by your side to connect with that kind of music, I’m sure. And you don’t need to live out in the woods to connect with Denver’s. Our musical preferences represent a more fantastical and imaginative element of who we are. It’s who we are at some extreme of passion, like a formal version of ourselves, freed from the constraints of our current lives. In this other world, the difficulties may be even worse, but we deal with them in a carefree way, or respond more passionately than we ever could in real life, or are able to take it out on a guitar (or violin or theremin) instead of quietly facing it.

How many times have you listened to a song for the first, or fiftieth, time, and thought “What they’re singing is exactly true,” or even, “the sound of that instrument contains more truth about life than words can ever speak”? It’s powerful stuff.

As Jeff Tweedy sings in “Jesus, etc.”,

“You can rely on me honey,
You can come by any time you want,
I’ll be around,
You were right about the stars,
Each one is a setting sun.”

Even if each star is a setting sun, it’s good to know the likes of Jeff Tweedy will always be there in musical form, waiting to be visited.

I need to read or write about something that isn’t Charles Dickens

9 May, 2006

In the last five days, I have read Great Expectations and Hard Times (both by Charles Dickens), and written an 11 page paper on them. In the Life of Michael Rhodes, by Michael Rhodes, Michael, sometimes known as Mike, decides after spending a great deal of time reading and writing about Charles Dickens (great English novelist of the 19th century), that he must find some relief before sleeping. Having a tutorial at 9 am, and finding himself done with his paper at 3 am, he feels pressed for time. It is for this reason that he chooses the medium of the weblog to escape from the mundain business of school — an activity all readers can relate to, and which makes the subject of this novel truly an everyman. Indeed, Rhodes’ use of the everyman technique to illustrate the drivel written by the average college freshman reflects the strain of intellectual thought most dominant in the day, a sort of historical scholarship with an abandon for out-of-the-way-of-autobiographical-interpretation methods of interpretation and analysis of works by authors whose lives are reflected in the novels they write about themselves, and whose biographers write about them as well, though not in novel form, for the autobiographer has already done that. So Rhodes chooses this ‘realistic’ style of writing to convey his frustration with the general ineptitude of the night to last longer than the hours required for a human being (animal; descended from apes; very dexterous with hands, through help of opposable thumb) to achieve a satisfactory amount of rest for their recovery of indebted energy, minus the number of hours required to complete said paper. This symbolizes his inability to connect with his fellow high-school-junior-level paper writers, who write not as relief from actual paper writing, but write in their unaffected style, in earnest.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Ophelia, get thee to a nunnery!