~Forgotten Wings~

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20 March 2002

IWell, two exams and four papers (actually, technically two exams and five papers) later, I return to finally update my website again. And considering that the time between this entry and the next will probably be even longer than that between this and the last, I feel like I ought to make it a good-- and a long-- one. The problem is, I can't think of anything in particular to write about. So I will probably ramble a good deal. But, as those who've had to put up with me for the last few weeks know, I've been doing a good bit of incoherent rambling in person. Why not put some of that down in print?
To randomly pick a topic and jump into the middle of things, as I prepare to pack up my things for our New Mexico trip, I've been pondering my CD collection-- or lack thereof. I own somewhere in the vicinity of fifteen CDs. Compared to most of the people I know, whose collections measure somewhere in the dozens (and by dozens, I don't mean two or three dozen), this is rather paltry.

One would think that this would indicate something, perhaps that I don't like to listen to music. That would be completely false. I love music. Most people love music, so that's not a terribly meaningful statement, but I suppose it at least goes to show that I'm not abnormally deficient in my appreciation of music. There's something absurd about actually stating that I love to listen to music-- it feels like it's something fundamental that every human shares, where it's only a matter of one's personal taste in what music they prefer. There's something fulfilling on the deepest level in listening to your favorite songs-- not to mention singing along.

So if I am indeed a human being and not a music-hating robot, what accounts for my lack of CDs? Part of it is logistics-- I never had a CD player in my car. At home, there was always a pretty comprehensive collection of Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel records, which got listened to quite a bit. And then I guess part of it is the fact that I tend to be generally accepting of music in general, and can enjoy a whole lot of music within certain limits. So I never had a problem with just putting on the radio. I basically knew the entire catalog of the local "classic hits" station (a pretty good combination of late '60s, '70s, and '80s music) to the point where I'd be surprised to hear a song come on that I didn't know. Sure, there were times when the music felt kind of blah, but I could always hope that a good song would come on. It worked well enough for me that the thought of purchasing CDs that would let me hear my favorite songs whenever I wanted was never preoccupying.

But I really do prefer my situation now, where I can get basically any song I want on mp3, and play it whenever I choose. Granted, I can abuse the privilege, to the point of listening to my current favorite songs practically non-stop, but I like having the option. And honestly, I prefer having mp3s, where I can program my playlists with the songs I want now, to CDs where I have to sit through songs or skip around to pick my favorites. I suppose I'm losing the "album experience" that the artists designed. But I like having a mix of different musicians on a playlist, or a mix of songs from different albums and different time periods of the same band. (Perhaps my love for putting either playlists, artists' repertoires, or my entire catalog on random is a result of being used to listening to the radio and not knowing what to expect.) Besides, while for some people music is the thing they spend money on, I'm not in that habit, and spending $15 on a CD that I can get for free online runs up against my somewhat stingy nature.

All of these things are just technicalities, though, discussion that doesn't get to the heart of what music is for me. The best music is undoubtedly that which affects you emotionally, which resonates with you on some level. This generally involves good lyrics (although sometimes the music itself can just hit you), but there's something about music that raises the poetry of its lyrics to a completely different level. Just saying or reading, say, "Love is a temple, love the higher law... You ask me to enter, but then you make me crawl... And I can't be holding on to what you got, when all you got is hurt" doesn't mean the same thing as singing it. It can't feel the same. They encapsulate emotions, and that's why things as seemingly lyrically unexciting as, "But all the promises we make, from the cradle to the grave, when all I want is you" or even "To let it go, and so to fade away" can mean so much-- to pick lyrics from the songs that have been striking me as particularly beautiful and meaningful recently. (Three guesses which artist Britt has been listening to while writing her papers this past week?) Lyrically beautiful phrases are special in their own way. But in a song with lines like "See the stone set in your eyes, see the thorn twist in your side, I wait for you... Sleight of hand and twist of fate, on a bed of nails she makes me wait, and I wait without you," you can still be more touched by hearing "and you give yourself away" than by all those words.

Music lyrics aren't the same as poetry meant for the eyes. For example, I've struggled all year to find Travis lyrics that would make a good away message, and it's hard. There are many Travis songs that I really like because they touch me emotionally, like "Indefinitely" and "Safe," but when you look at the words in print, the lyrics seem so much emptier and it's almost not fair to the songs to do that. Putting lyrics in away messages--and in profiles-- really hits at the heart of the difference between the words of songs and the songs themselves. I guess in a lot of ways I just do it for me, for the emotions that those lines or the song itself signify for me and stir in me. (Although certainly when I'm in a rush, I'll stick one up for the sound of the words.)

There's really something so individual about listening to music, because when you're really listening and it's not just something on in the background, it's such an active experience. The significance of the lyrics and the way the music feels are dependent on the person listening. Sometimes I really don't want to know or think about what the writer of the song was intending, or what other people get out of songs. Even songs we "share" with other people really can't be shared; they're special because the emotions they stir in us are connected with another person, but that person inevitably feels them in their own way. And songs can be meaningful to me that other people hear as bland or trite, and vice versa.

Of course, music doesn't have to be that emotionally deep and profound. Some of the best music can be lyrically near-meaningless, yet it makes happiness swell up in us at the sound of the music or even the rhythm and bounce of words which would do nothing for us on paper. Like the song that just started up for me now that I've put my music back on random for a while-- "You Can Call Me Al." Or how else would you explain the way "Elevation" makes me smile? I love some of the early Beatles stuff for these reasons. I've always felt that "Good Day Sunshine" captures a particular sort of feeling better than any other song I've ever heard. Or Billy Joel-- "Only the Good Die Young."

Well, this has gone on long enough. And since it's 5 AM now, and in about 5 days I'll be having to be up and at the Habitat worksite by 8:45 AM, I probably shouldn't press my sleep limits any further.


Last updated 7 December, 2002


Intellectual Property Rights denounced by Britt Gordon-McKeon, 2002