The needle drops and the static evokes a spirit recorded in time and space. Guitars strum, strings breathe life, drums are struck, and the muse speaks into existence. I close my eyes and imagine the scenery of a lush countryside filled with rolling prairies that stretch miles beyond sight. Or I visualize a dark forest with twisted limbs reaching towards the vapor that blankets the skyline and blackened earth below my feet. It is all dependent on my mood. Not all my musical journeys share such a contrast between light and dark, but I seem to be strangely pulled towards that dynamism of the human experience.
Music has always had this effect on people, evoking an array of emotions from melancholy to joy, from sadness to anger, and from hate to love. This is nothing new, and everyone knows the power of music. But everyone’s music journey looks different and how we interact with the form is as ethereal as the memories that haunt us, for better or worse. This past week has been incredibly rough; there was an election on the forefront of everyone’s minds, stresses from working, and personal struggles that have gotten me to think about how I interact with this form. Let’s dive into what music has done in my times of need.
Let’s start from the beginning shall we…
It’s 1998. I am downstairs in the basement of my childhood home with my best friend Robbie, and he just brought over Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits. At this point, I had been listening to Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys on repeat, and my friend VOWED to change my ways. I turned the knob to the ancient tubed television that dwelled in the center of the room, blew the dust out of my copy of Goldeneye, inserted the cartridge into the Nintendo 64, and turned the dial to channel 3. Meanwhile, Robbie walked up to my stereo and popped in the CD that would change my world. It was from there that Steven Tyler, Robert Plant, Billy Idol, Freddie Mercury, and the world of classic rock struck their collective chords. I was happy.
Eight years passed and I had grown taller and wider. My cheeks are as plumb as a cherry tomato and my stomach has rolls that you can grab. I’m very shy and confidence is of little value in my world. In typical teenage fashion, I am confused in a flurry of emotion and music was my get away. Listening to the rhythmic blues of Led Zeppelin and progressive sounds Pink Floyd has evolved into angst. A blisteringly smooth balance of chaos and beauty from the Deftones to the grimy Southern hard rock of Rob Zombie, are just two examples of what I escaped to when I needed them most. But ultimately, I was confused.
It’s 2012 and I am fresh into college with the most confidence, well actually the most narcissistic I have every been, and thankfully since. My poison of choice is metal and I’ve dived deep into a pool of death, sludge, and darkness (trust me it’s therapeutic). Honestly, I wanted music that would make my ears bleed. The most consuming music phase of my life, I scoured the internet daily for new music and listened to it whenever and wherever I could. Going on walks, working out at the gym each day of the week, and every time the car was driven, I wanted it constantly playing. HELL, I even got in arguments over why my music taste was better than my friends. I know I was angry.
I’m 24 years old and I’ve been working at my local record store for the past 3 years, but there’s a specter looming around the place. A death knell is about to ring. For those past 3 years, I have found so much out about myself. The ectoplasm that oozes from the speakers hang overhead with memories of countless conjured spirits from Chopin and Stravinsky to Miles Davis and John Coltrane, from Marvin Gaye and The Temptations to Johnny Cash and George Strait, from Massive Attack and Garbage to The Cure and The Replacements, from Black Sabbath and The Beatles to Mastodon and Deafheaven, the list is endless…All of those spirits we could summon by just moving a needle over a 45. I was safe.
Three years had passed and I’m in China, totally lost. Natural curiosity of the world had not prepared my soul for the loss of connection with those whom had been a constant in life. Friends and family were just a memory, as new faces and experiences coloured my world. Everything was shut down from my social life, except Spotify? It was my solace and place of remembrance of knowledge and identity, music saved my essence. All those moments of anger, sorrow, and guilt had washed away with a pair of earphones. Listening to Phoebe Bridger’s Stranger in the Alps, David Bowie’s Blackstar, Kacey Musgrave’s Golden Hour, and The Contortionist’s Clairvoyant cleansed my palette and wonderfully whisked away feelings of hopelessness. Yet, I was scared.
It’s 2020 and near the end of the year…and what a FUCKING year it has been. Returning home to this ‘New World’ was a complete 180 degree spin that angled back to isolation once again. Losing my full-time position and being stuck at home with boundless amounts of time, you’d think as a fan of film, books, and music that I would be in heaven…but no. Hell, I even started playing and watching basketball (I never liked sports)! Records were once again conjured from the dead, breathing life into occupied space. Eyes closed, body curled, and mindlessness washed over me once the needle was dropped. I was lost.
Enter the film community on YouTube, my saving grace of friends and fellowship. The world seems to be crumbling around us, but this positive light brings hope. We bring each other up in those small moments of our days, and that means the world. Through that community, I met someone who reminded me of who I was and who I am, bonding over our mutual love of community and what we value and cherish. Music once again coloured my world, and I could finally share it with another soul. Re-discovery replaced feelings of wandering. I am in love.
The needle has lifted from the center of the record and the static is replaced with silence. The prairie fades into the distance and the dark forest dissipates to black. Music can transport us to worlds beyond our imagination and can evoke any emotion that can be dreamt. In our most trying times and in those sweet moments that seem to last forever in our periphery, the power that music has is limitless. Caught up in this melancholic daze, the ebb and flow conjured through music is what can haunt us, but it can save us too.
What about your experience with music? Can you think of a music memory that evoked an emotion? I’d love to hear about it, whether it is positive, negative, or somewhere in-between.
Thanks for reading, I’m not Jonesing around…