“tell me about a moment, a song
and what it meant to you”
memories hurt and can feel so good at the same time.
in a sense, song/context/result continues.. and this special blogger series keeps circling because to musicisart, its important for things to be personal and its inspiring to know in some way that we are all not alone. the only hope for this entire cathartic project is by sharing meaningful experiences, it gives a sense of satisfaction that its alright to feel different emotions and to let go.
Context: It was Christmas, my first time home with my girlfriend. I’m from a small, so small it’s hard sometimes to call it, home. I had gotten the Tom Waits’ Orphans box set from my parents and, like always when I’m back in that small town – I grab my CD’s and drive the endless countryside sorting out my thoughts.
I’d lost my grandmother about two years ago and she spoke once before she died about how she hoped her children and grandchildren would always remember to visit her on Christmas. It was on those winding country roads that eventually lead me back to the city I call home, that the second disc of the aforementioned Tom Waits box set was sound tracking. As I neared the city and cemetery, I sheepishly sprung my stop on my girlfriend and navigated the severely snowed over roads until I got close.
I paid my respects and did my best to keep my composure as I returned to the car. That’s when the song “Never Let Go” came over the stereo which finds Waits’ proclaiming he’ll “never let go of your hand.” This was my first time hearing the song, and while I don’t know why this song moved me so, (or is currently providing goose bumps as I write about it) but it opened the floodgates as tears began to pour from my eyes.
Result: Over the next several minutes as I drove in silence, holding my girlfriends hand, my head was filled with those perfect childhood memories of a boy and his grandmother – those filled with cookie jars and small amounts of cash pressed into your hand that made you feel rich enough to own the world. As time passes, it’s easy to forget those who so profoundly touched your life once they’ve passed on. This song in helped me remember.
Context: In November of last year, I went on a trip with the rest of my class. I don’t even remember what we were doing that day–it was a pointless excursion, but it got us out of math class nonetheless. Have you ever had that feeling when you can’t find the right song for the right moment? Well, I was sitting on the bus ride home, my iPod in my hand, trying to find the perfect tune–of course, I wasn’t getting anywhere.
Result: But then–an echo of guitars bounced into my ears, and when I looked around, I saw people laughing, smiling, sipping their coffee. The snow started to fall outside, and it seemed so peaceful. They fell down to the ground so slowly, so delicately. And when I looked back at the people sitting around me, chattering and screaming without a single sound, I felt at peace. When those guitars jangled their minor chords, it seemed so right. And to that, I toasted my ten dollar cup of mud, and sank lower into the rubber-fabricated chair.
Context: Almost one year ago to the day, I was sitting alone at home the night just after witnessing the final moments of my father’s life slip away earlier before my eyes. I played this song that night as it had always been such an emotional song for me to listen to and I just wanted to get everything out…to let everything go. I’m listening to it at this very moment as it’s been almost that entire year since I had last poured my emotions out because of it.
Result: One of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever listened to. It had always been a song that could evoke different emotions whether it would be of sadness or happiness. After that night I could never listen to it again without feeling that sadness and it will be forever associated with that moment in time for as long as I live. It’s a feeling I never want to have again for a very long time but it’s something one could never avoid. From the soft hint of the delicately played piano in the beginning until the massive build-up of the end that kills me everytime I hear it.
Context: Driving in the rain near the house where I grew up.
Result: Now whenever I hear that song, the shape of the exit ramp I was driving on pops into my mind… and then I can almost smell the cigarette smoke/vanilla-roma essence that enveloped my car in those days. It happens every time I hear it.
Context: During the summer of 1999, I took my ex-girlfriend and her mother on an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe. We’d broken up before getting anywhere near a plane, but the tickets were paid for, and it seemed like it made more sense to go than to stay home. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and it wound up being an awful, depressing trip, full of bad times and bad vibes.
By the time we got to Rome, I was more than ready to go home. We were staying at a hotel at the top of the Spanish Steps, and one night, in a fit of utter misery, I walked out, found a step, and glumly people-watched; I had nowhere else to go.
Result: One guy, in the middle of the crowd, had an acoustic guitar that he kept fooling around with — little bits of this song or that. At a certain point, he started playing “Hey Jude,” and it turned into a singalong. First his friends, then the people around them, and then, finally, seemingly everybody on the whole damn Spanish Steps was singing chorus after chorus of “Hey Jude” in neverending unison. The cops came and broke it up at midnight, but I went to bed with a smile on my face.
Context: From the very beginning of my junior year in college, my sights were set on march and the 1998 ncaa division ii national championship swim meet. Every 5:30am swim practice, every 2pm swim practice, every swim meet leading up to march, I reminded myself that my goal was to win the 100 yard backstroke on the biggest stage I would ever face. Finally, after 6 months of anticipation, the moment arrived. Like every big competition in swimming or track and field, every swimmer entered swims in preliminary heats in the morning and the top eight swimmers advance to the finals that take place later that evening. My good fortune had me as the top seed after the prelims, and one of the perks that came along with that was the choice of a song that would be played as the finalists marched in line out onto the pool deck and to their starting blocks. After some thought, “desire” by U2 came to me and I knew that there was no other choice. And so it was that later that evening, as the other seven finalists and I paraded out to our position, the edge’s opening guitar riff and bono’s simple “yeah!” signaled that I was ready to fulfill a year’s worth of dedication and hard work. It was loud, it was inspiring, it was perfect. I knew, as I entered the water to begin my race, that there was only way this could end. Swimmers, take your mark. [beep!]
Result: 1998 NCAA Division II National Champion, 100 yard backstroke.
Context: The battered cd that carried me around Europe in the summer of 2000. It was my 18th birthday, and I stood in a large crowd in Pamplona’s old town, fenced in on either side by high, thick wooden barricades. This song was ringing in my ears as they released the bulls, and we ran uphill, along the cobbled, narrow streets of old town, the bulls chasing us every last step into the arena at the top of the hill.
Result: Sheer euphoria, perhaps at the thought of growing up, becoming a man. There I was, lost in the masses yet every bit an individual, my feral yells mixing with the heavy guitars and the frantic drumming of hooves and boot-clad feet against the wet stone.
artwork by ryan rubis