3.23.2007

Sometimes a song is more than just a song.

Sometimes a song is more than just a song. Actually, that needs rephrasing: much more often than not, a song is considerably more than a song. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in the present day and age, songs have become some manner of amalgamated tapestry that both pervades and supersedes the experience of the everyday American.

An assertion like that deserves an example to serve as an entry point to further discussion, and I am inclined to provide one. The East Library in Colorado Springs is an exquisite repository for literature, reference, and educational materials of any and all ilk. I often find myself walking out of its mutedly modernist entrance with the distinct impression that I am both far less lazy and much more intellectually robust. I’ll remember these feelings only so far as the end of the road out front; half a mile away and I’ve already turned my thoughts to upcoming episodes of Gray’s Anatomy and what monumentally unhealthy processed foodstuffs I can cram down my gullet later in the evening. The benefits of an afternoon spent in stacks of musty old books are forgotten until the next time I, purely by happenstance, stumble in once again in search of a good date movie.

Today I found myself in the East Library, ostensibly under the pretense of research for an upcoming project at work that demanded the scouring of back issues of periodicals. Sounds good, right? Well, I was really in there to catch up on the last couple issues of Spin. I appeased my conscience by cracking open some pretentiously text-heavy magazine about writing, flipping through it for no more than five minutes, and tossing it aside like so much literati jetsam.

One of the brightest perks of a lost afternoon in the moderately comfortable chairs of the magazine lounge at the library is that I can bring along my iPod. Back in college I would have portable music with me everywhere and make solid use of its services, but as a current member of the corporate world with little or no chance of escape most days I find myself music-free. Whenever I get a couple hours to lose myself in my headphones, I realize that I need to take full advantage of the opportunity; thus, I spent a goodly amount of time at the mercy of a 3,000-song shuffle this afternoon.

The appeal of a good shuffle isn’t quite as attractive as it once was, I’m afraid. Too many times I get the filler material when all I really want is a computer to be entirely intuitive to my context and mood, and provide me with song after song that sends me into an emotional spiraling tirade without ever leaving my seat. Is this simply too much to ask? As an alternative, I dug out “Funeral” by Arcade Fire. I have a list of about twenty or so albums that haven’t received the proper amount of attention from me while at the same time courting a tremendous amount of praise from people whose musical tastes I trust. It is an unstated goal in my life to give these works their due and ascertain just whatever the heck it is that makes everyone slather so much over them in the first place. This is one of those albums, and by coincidence it happens to come first alphabetically and therefore was the first one I saw.

The opening track is called, um… you know, I can’t actually remember what the title is. Something about neighborhoods—one of the pitfalls of the digital music upswing is the propensity for learning albums and songs by number instead of proper names. Anyway, the song is one of those that starts out ominous and thumping and then breaks into a steady beat with accented up notes, like a traditional ska beat except not really similar in any meaningful way—if you heard the song then you’d know what I was talking about. As the overtly emotional vocalist was reaching higher and higher into the stratosphere of elucidation on some aspect of being from Montreal (I assume), I’m walking out of the library and into what has turned into a preposterously gorgeous day.

The temperature is hovering somewhere in the mid-sixties, not too shabby for late March. There’s still a sense of crispness hovering in the air, just enough to allow someone playing hooky from work to don a hooded sweatshirt if he so pleases. There is a convoy of cotton-candy-like clouds floating by over the entire city. As I look over to the west halfway through the parking lot I espy Pikes Peak, the westernmost 14,000-foot peak of the Rocky Mountains, mired halfway up in a ring of rain clouds that threaten to release themselves from the sloped moorings of the mountains and spill into the suburban basin below. This is a sight that I continuously pray I never get tired of, a sight that I almost never had a chance to see in the gently rolling grasslands of the Upper Midwest and a sight that I fully except I will miss and regret not appreciating more once I move on from my current home.

In a spurt of divinely refined timing, I behold this breathtaking sight exactly at the point where this song in my ears reaches its emotional climax, bursting into a sublime moment that will almost certainly be forgotten in little time but that colors a larger span of my life into a significantly radiant swash of meaning and fulfillment. Perhaps you think I’m making too much of this moment; I assure that my capacities with the English language are not doing this moment justice. At that moment I realized just how much music has provided hue to my world in such an enormous and seemingly omnipresent way since I first bought a Discman with money earned at my first job almost twelve years ago. Music is more than songs; it’s a continuous tapestry of life enhancement and affirmation.

The preceding paragraphs were written with a Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level of 12.1. In your face, high school students!

2 comments:

Jan said...

and there is nothing like a song that will take you back to that exact moment. hundreds of moments in our lives are defined by the noises that come into our ears. Ever single time that I hear the first 10 seconds of the crazy horns in the begining of too late by greenhouse i am sitting in that rx-7 that i drove the second summer i worked at camp, coming up the road from aurora, almost at camp. I know that I am over an hour late, and am considering what I could tell people as to why i am late.

Our lives are filled with moments like that, ones that you will never forget. people, places and sights are all dictated by the songs in our heads.

I posit that the main demon of digital music, and my love-hate relationship with my shuffle on the old ipod is the death of the album. which i find myself struggling with at this very moment. i liked albums.

Nick said...

that's very true. singles are killing albums for the common listener. you know what? i'm no longer shuffling. that's right. it's time to stop the madness.

every time i hear the mighty blue kings i'm reminded of the 24-hour mario party.