Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Sonic Landmarks

My wife and I recently had a conversation about a particular quirk I have, which is basically my mysterious (well, mysterious to her) ability to recall songs, the bands or artists who played them, and how old I was when I first heard them. We had this conversation over several bottles of beer while watching my sister's ex-boyfriend's rock band play. She expressed her bemusement as I strained to hear her over the sounds of 90's rock and grunge. And so I did my best to explain.
And my explanation was that I tend to measure or track my life in terms of songs I've heard. Every song I've ever heard is like a milestone, a distinct sonic landmark that I associate with certain periods of my life. When I hear, for instance, Radiohead's Creep I'm thirteen years old again, and I can almost see my old classroom with my old classmates. I can feel the awkwardness, the shyness, the desire to be cool. When I listen to the Dave Matthews Band, I'm back in my college days hanging out with my friends as we drink and pass the joints around, getting stoned and wasted. I hear a Nirvana song and I remember the summer of '95 when I rediscovered Nirvana (rediscovered because Kurt Cobain had already been dead for a few years) after seeing a copy of the band's biography. I remember wishing I was cool and punk as Kurt, Chris and Dave. Looking back, I'm glad I didn't end up like Kurt, but I still like listening to Smells Like Teen Spirit.
The point is, I cannot imagine my life without all these songs. I guess it's the musician in me - that part of me that got hooked to music whether it's hearing it or playing it. Music, after all, was my first mistress, my first lover, who seduced me in my adolescence and has been my constant companion ever since. But I didn't tell my wife that. I didn't want to make her jealous.

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