Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Memory Music

Lynn and I have been friends for well over 20 years, and we only get more similar to each other with each passing year, it seems. But one way we continue to be different is in music. Lynn is an audiophile; the sort of person who goes to estate sales and buys trunks full of old CDs just to see what's there. I think she told me once that, if played straight through, beginning to end, her music library would run for somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 months.

My library, while moderately diverse, would only run for about 10 days, or so iTunes tells me. I tend to only collect music after I've decided I need it, rather than getting music first and then deciding whether I like it. (And I mean need -- liking a song isn't enough; I have to think I'll still like it years from now; it has to be the kind of song I want to close my eyes and sing along with at the top of my lungs, and to hell with anyone present who doesn't happen to be tone-deaf.)

I don't attach to music quickly or easily, but once in a while, a song will resonate in me so hard that I'll have it on heavy rotation -- or continuous loop -- for days, even weeks on end. And forever after, hearing that song will call up memories of what I was doing or feeling at that time.

For instance, when I was in high school (just to date myself) one of the songs in heavy rotation on the radio was Chris DeBurgh's Lady in Red. I still associate it rather strongly with N., a dear friend who nurtured a rather desperate -- and, alas, unrequited -- crush on me.

I also tend to link songs to characters or stories.

Light as the Breeze, sung by Billy Joel but written by Leonard Cohen (I understand there's a version of Cohen singing it, but that's not the version I have) -- I was in this roleplaying game, playing an older character who had long since accepted that she'd had her turn at romance and was done with it now, only to have a romance spring out of nowhere and completely sweep her away. For various reasons, it was a tragic story -- there could be no ending, even in a fantasy story, in which everyone would get what they deserved -- and this song is now inextricably intertwined with that story. On its own, it's a song of hope and triumph, but I can't hear it now without at least a touch of melancholy.

I'm never going to hear Alannah Myles' Black Velvet without thinking of Diya, a character of Lynn's in a game we were both in; and Sting's Desert Rose belongs now to Kevil, who was my character in that game, and Diya's lover.

Switchfoot's Dare You to Move brings me to Dawn, aka Rafe from Safe Harbor (though the story's first few iterations predate it by several years, and were much darker). The song, for me, is about making yourself get up and keep going, even when bad things have happened, even when you have screwed up, even when you've been hurt, even when you don't want to. It's about facing and accepting who you are, acknowledging that your past shapes you, but refusing to let it rule you. In short -- it's about how, every morning when he wakes up, he's still Dawn; he still has to fight to own himself and become Rafe again.

I had a whole playlist and soundtrack when I was writing Of One Mind, but at the end, the song I put on infinite repeat was Bent by Matchbox Twenty. It really seemed to capture Caris' sense of pain and frustration with Jereth's hesitation. And there's an echo of Shame by Stabbing Westward in "The Sinner's Star", my story in Ink. I always wanted to write a story to go with My Immortal by Evanescence -- not the surface story of the song, which is kind of pathetic and whiny, but something that would load the history so that the song became truly poignant and heartbreaking, the way it sounds. (It's either about vampire lovers or a mother having to watch her child leave; I haven't decided.)

What are your favorite significant songs, and what do they say to you?

1 comment:

  1. 58.6 days. Which isn't quite two months, and that's not including the songs that I've unchecked as "please god, never play this again" of which there are quite a few. But I never throw music away.

    I was talking about lost on a deserted island music with someone recently (never you mind how I'm playing albums if I'm on an island) and They Might Be Giants, Flood, came up as a top 10. Jonah Knight's Ghosts Don't Disappear album is fantastic (I particularly like the song Window Frames and Elizabeth Feels Differently - for obvious reasons) I'm enamored of a sampling of African music called Afrike Wasse (especially a song called Kothbiro (transl. "it's going to rain") Dispatch's "Two Coins" and pretty much anything by Bob Dylan (esp. True Love Never Forgets) and Bruce Springsteen (Brilliant Disguise)