I’m not much of a TV watcher. I don’t know what to watch, and I don’t like having to “look” for new shows. It’s pretty serendipitous when an interesting show appears while I’m channel surfing, but because this happens so rarely, I almost never turn on the TV at all. I do however, like to listen to the radio throughout the day. In the morning, my alarm goes off and plays the classical radio station. After I get dressed, I walk downstairs to the kitchen, turn on the lights, turn on another radio, and only then start thinking about what I will make for breakfast.
I have this groovy thing called XM Radio, and it has a gazillion stations to listen to. This is an excellent thing because the radio stations in the city only have playlists that last for one hour before they start to repeat songs. Maddening. The XM menu lets me listen to stations that play songs from certain decades, or specific genres. I love it.
Music has a direct line to my emotions; I like to listen to songs that mirror my current mood. If I am happy, I choose happy music. If I’m sad or angry, then I find some heavy metal or something with a strong beat. Sometimes though, I crave certain songs or albums because I want to emotionally revisit a specific event or time period in my life.
When I was sixteen, my grandfather decided to help my parents find and purchase a used car for me. After much searching, he located a ’74 brown Chevrolet Chevette. It was a bare bones, two door hatchback model that didn’t have much of anything except four wheels, a motor, and a lock on the gas tank. Grandpa installed a head-bolt heater so that it would start in the cold Minnesota winter, and he also put in a cassette player as a special surprise. I loved that car. I didn’t have many tapes, but the few I did own were well worn from constant play: Robert Palmer, The Police, Whitney Houston, Billy Joel… To this day, whenever I hear Robert Palmer on the radio, I think about my little Chevette … and Grandpa’s beaming smile when he handed me the keys and told me that the car was mine.
I drove my car until I started college. Unfortunately, I went to a small liberal arts college that had a no-car policy, and my little Chevette had to stay at home while I was away at school. During my first year I lived in a dormitory that was a brief walk from the main part of campus. I hated walking home by myself after dark because my night vision was poor, and the quietness of the evening felt spooky. To combat my irrational terror, I started carrying a Walkman in my backpack. My favorite auditory diversion was Sting’s album The Dream of the Blue Turtles. I would push the play button the moment I stepped outside, and listen to the song Russians over and over if I was really nervous. I still play this album often, especially in the wintertime, when it gets dark too early here in Minnesota. It’s an instant stress-reducer, and the familiarity of the songs relaxes me more effectively than any meditation script ever could.
By my sophomore year of college I had mastered the skill of recording a mix-tape, and couldn’t get enough new music to listen to. Unfortunately, during winter term I also developed a wicked case of depression. I remember making a mix-tape one night with two separate playlists, Happy Music and Sad Music. I almost never played the Happy Music side. Instead, the Sad Music side played on an unending rewind-repeat cycle. At the time, I had no idea what was going on with my psyche, but my amazing roommates did. They worried about me, and I can only imagine how tired they were of the Sad Music playlist. I still feel badly about that. Miraculously, my depression-fog eventually lifted, and my friendships didn’t disappear; it’s amazing that I finished the term as strongly as I did. I recently found that mix-tape, and immediately threw it away. I’m scared to revisit any emotions I might find in those lyrics, and have no desire to listen to any of the songs again.
Music has always provided the backdrop to my life, and now it also allows me to peer into the emotions and developing persona of my daughter. Like me, The Girlie enjoys playing music throughout the day, and so I signed up for a family Spotify plan that allows her to make playlists of her own. I love listening to the songs she chooses, as well as the occasionally provided commentary about why she likes each one; some make her feel happy, some make her feel like dancing, others have a good beat. I sometimes see her revisiting specific songs during homework or quiet times, and I smile. I wonder what goes on in her mind and her heart when she listens to the music… or how she will remember the songs when she moves on to another time in her life. I hope she continues to share her playlists with me so that I can listen along, too …
Message of the Day: Everyone has a personal musical soundtrack. Listening to old favorites can spark strong and vivid emotional memories for you and provide personal insight to those you choose to share your music with. I wish I could go back in time and make lists of my favorite and most listened-to songs from each year. I would compile the music into an epic playlist that would take weeks to listen to. I might listen to it by myself, but more likely would I give it to those I love as a way of understanding me when my words fall short.