Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Walk into the Woods

If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. 
I often think in music. 
I live my daydreams in music. 
I see my life in terms of music... 
I do know that I get most joy in life out of my violin.  
  - Albert Einstein

Help. I can't turn off the music. Friends tease me because they rarely see me without my ear buds in these days. I went to the doctor. I was sitting there, shivering in nothing but my paper gown listening to Mazzy Star when the doctor walked in, politely unplugged me from my iPhone and set it aside. He didn't seem amused by the silliness of it all. Just muttered that he thought he would have to surgically remove it from my body. So what if my iPhone is connected to me like an oxygen tank? I tell friends that I'm drowning out the thoughts in my own head with the music. But I think there's more to it than that. My song choice is a better barometer for my feelings than my own head. When I reach for my iPhone and select a song, an artist or a playlist, it tells me something about what I want; what I need at that exact moment. I know I tend towards the melancholy but it's not always so dramatic. Sometimes I just need a zippy tune to motivate me to do mundane tasks. 

Last week, a friend inspired me with Kiss's "Calling Dr. Love" -- a good one for attacking a sink full of dirty dishes. I have a playlist specifically for cleaning the house -- more classic stuff like the Stones, Springsteen, Bowie -- as of late a friend turned me on to Paul Weller. He's good for getting me off the couch. The other day, I discovered the Little Dude rocking out to a tune -- and he was truly feeling the music. No joke. I'm so pleased to say my son has rhythm and was really getting into it. I was amazed. Where did he get those moves from? I asked him expecting he would tell me he was hanging with some new friends at school. Instead, he laughed, kind of embarrassed even, rolled his eyes and said, "youuuu, mom."

Jammin' with the little dude to the Beatles -- that's the lighter side of music for me. Of course there is the other side. Times when I'm not willing to share my music with others. I have to be alone with it in my own head. Am I trying to block out all the other stuff whirling around in my mind? I used to think that but I'm not so sure anymore. Oftentimes my music selection is one step ahead of me -- conscious or not I think the music unravels stuff I just need to get out. And I don't have to work through my emotions alone because I have Ray Lamontagne or Adele crooning about their loneliness, their heartbreak. That's what sets some artists apart from others. They don't hold back, they aren't afraid to show their vulnerability in their music. It's brave.

Bon Iver's Justin Vernon retreated from the real world after his old band broke up, his girlfriend split and he contracted mononucleosis. Holed up in his dad's remote hunting cabin in Northwestern Wisconsin he wrote and recorded one of my all time favorite albums, "For Emma, Forever Ago." He's not always so literal in exposing his heartache. In fact, his lyrics are notoriously nonsensical. I used to pick apart his lyrics trying to interpret the meaning but now think it's a waste of time. He's been quoted as saying he chooses words more for their sound than for their meaning. And yet listening to the whole album, the hurt, the pain, the recovery are so apparent -- it's just there. We all don't have the luxury of taking a walk into the woods and escaping the real world but Justin allows you to come along -- at least for an hour or so. When your own world is crashing down all around you, it helps to know someone's been through their own hell and found their way out.

Nothing delights me more than discovering a new artist or the "perfect song." When I unearth it, I'm as giddy as a school girl with a new crush. The perfect song and I collide in synchrony at precisely the right moment.  It captures everything I'm feeling at the moment and I'm convinced it's flawless and no other song will ever compare. I can get really stuck on a song. Really. I will loop the song continuously for hours, oftentimes falling asleep to it. iTunes counts how many times you play a song and I have some I've listened to over 400 times. And then through no conscious decision of my own,  I'll be over the song. Just like that. The song helps me over a hump, to process something stuck in my head and then I'm done. It's over. And I move on. Great, classic songs can stand the abuse. Someday I'll return to the song. But sometimes I've really killed it. The poor song gave me all that it had to give and there's nothing left. The reason behind my love affair with music? When I'm certain I've found the perfect song, another one comes along -- it always does. I just have to have faith. How hopeful is that?