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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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musical musings
children of dune - leto 1
svmadelyn, from the goodness of her heart, overloaded me with fifteen of the most depressing songs in the history of civilization. Well, twelve of them, one with one murdering her husband, and one with memphis involved. Which honestly, I feel that the second you mention Memphis in any country song, it's autojerk to assume it's about someone drinking themselves to death in a bar somewhere while listening to Hank Williams.

Part of this is that I grew up around a bar. Not the nightclub kind--the rural kind, where everyone and their families went after work with their kids and their parents and their grandparents, where all the kids learned pool early on and played outside during summer. Good times. It was farmers, third, fourth, fifth generation. My dad, a painter. Landscapers, construction, name it and have it live in rural Central Texas, represent. Unfortunately, the jukebox was stuck in the late seventies even when the nineties happened, so my early music tastes were formed by Willie Nelson and Waylan Jennings and God help us all, Patsy Cline. I don't remember now--but a song can come on the radio and suddenly I'm singing without any clear idea what I'm singing. If I don't catch myself, I can make it through the entire song. If I realize what I'm doing, I forget immediately. It took me until my very early teens to discover rock and pop, and I made my first mix tapes with my first stereo with nothing but pop--sadly, I just missed falling for New Kids on the Block (my sister wanted to marry them all, and I melted the hair of Donnie Walburg once). I remember Madonna and Paula Abdul and the first time I saw a music video.

I love music, in a very non-discrimatory way. I like it dramatic and quiet and painful, and I'd prefer to cry through it. I remember my first crush was set to Oceans Apart and the first time I was hurt it was to Madonna's I Remember. The last time I fell in love didn't have a soundtrack, but the last time my heart broke, I spent six months with Alanis Morisette. I still have that entire CD memorized. I was twenty, so that has to excuse most of it. I remember feeling with music--play the right time, and for a few seconds, I'm there, and it's all brand new.

I played clarinet and still remember Nimrod: Enigma Variations, haunting and beautiful and deceptively simple, rippling through every instrument. Flute and clarinets trading melody, countermelody like running water beneath it, silky and rising, a crescendo like a shock and hurting when it ended.

College the first time around was Sheryl Crowe and Live and the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. I made out to the Cranberries Zombie my freshman year and I learned to dance the waltz to Bryan Adams Tell Me Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman and how to two step to Clint Black. I don't listen to dance music unless I'm dancing, and then I don't care what it is--something with a hard beat I can feel up my calves and in my back that melts me like wax, where my body's mine and moves the way I always thought it should. I sing to Phantom of the Opera and wrote my first novel to Drops of Jupiter. When I was seventeen, I fell in love with Roxette and Pet Shop Boys playing in teh background. I still have those tapes, hidden in a box, hand labeled by the first person I ever loved.

I look for my life in almost forgotten lyrics, sets of four beats, snatches of melody in a grocery store playing in tinny speakers. I heard a snatch of Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes in HEB and I felt a start of recognition--I know that, this feeling, this second, this moment--but I don't know why. My mother is Aerosmith and George Michael and Wham and The Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Nadia's theme, Christmas caroles she taught herself to play on our old piano when I was growing up. My dad's Hank Williams Jr and classic country music on the radio in the jeep. My sisters are rap and R&B and Eminem. Friends are hung around with lyrics and drip slow beats, play in inaudible memories in my head. Katie, long gone but not forgotten, is VH-1 and Gin Blossoms and Collective Soul, stroking my hair and pulling herself to pieces while I watched. Loni's Depeche Mode and Erasure played on repeat when I fell in love the way I never have since, and the way I broke myself when it ended, when she held me while I cried. Vannezsa's industrial rock, German and Russian bands with thick beats and Metallica, The Matrix soundtrack.

I don't understand it, music--why simple melody can break me or inspire me, why the right playlist can keep me up for days and the wrong one reduce me to tears. I don't understand teh combination of notes that makes Appalacian Spring shiver through me and Bolero wake me up. Don't Let It Go to Your Head I'll sing outside at work with my ipod playing in my ears, a twirling in the parking lot under trees and wondering if anyone can see me out the windows, feeling alive and fresh and like everything's new all over again. The Boys of Summer makes me want the beach like I want air, and What About Everything makes me stare at the sky in wonder at how much is left for me to see.

I'm always surprised when I find something new, always amazed how it can reduce me to silence inside my head, flattening thought and tuning the world out, everything turned inward to absorb what I hear, like all of life is captured in three minutes, thirty seconds, everything I am and was and everything I'll ever be. It's breathtaking, every time.

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I could give you a remarkably lengthy response, but suffice to say: I feel the same.

Music is my end-all timepiece, and I can remember the taste of air fifteen years ago by it. I've been working on an art project based on the influence of music, tied in with the weight of relationships, in memory.

Music can change the way you breathe.

I was going to copy and then say YES YES.

But God.

Music can change the way you breathe.

Yes. Every time. Yes.

There is a song by a girl named Carly Comando, a piano instrumental, that does this for me in ways no other ever has. She has yet to release an album, but this one song is widely available to internet junkies via YouTube and the "every day" project by Noah, and iTunes.

I am a music junkie. I sometimes answer to Mdme Audiophile. I can find almost any piece of music, and I can sing along to a song I heard only once when I was three if it is played in my presence, without consciously recognizing it.

I played the clarinet as well. I was second chair for my high school band for a few years, including one year when we won the TX state championships in something to do with h.s. bands.

And yet, I cannot read or write music. I regret this painfully.

You should contact me. I think I have some things you could bear to hear.

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Sure, I'll try to help ya. I've added your AIM to my list and will be watching for you.

It occurs to me, actually, that in my paranoia I have kept contact info unavailable. You can let me know, and I will leave you a messenger sn or email, if you wish.



Did she send you "Marie" by Townes Van Zandt?


Also, it's cheezy as hell, but the "Raggedy Ann" song by Little Jimmy Dickens gets me bawling every time.

The local "by Texans, For Texans" radio station used to do "tearjerker tuesdays," like half an hr of stuff that /hurt/. Gotta love 95.3 The Range.

*grins* I'm downloading that as soon as I get home this evening.

Country music has a disturbingly *high* population of really tragic songs. I mean, the theme of a broken heart can be anywhere, but man, country has it down to an art.

Sometimes I feel like the emissary of twang for my f-list. I like a ton of musical types, from Irish folk to Ukranian Gypsy Punk to country to rap to pop to trip-hop and acid jazz, but for some reason I'm always pimpin' out the twang. I think I'm attracted to the deeper narrative aspects of it. there are a few songs that tell a story in most genres, but especially in old country, or the new-old country, they're thick on the ground. It's like watching a mini-movie in my head and I dig that.

Also, while you're searching for music, "I envy the wind" by Lucinda Williams. Where the other two are overtly sad, this one is just simple and filled with such deep longing.

I envy the wind
That whispers in your ear
That howls through the winter
That freezes your fingers
That moves through your hair
And cracks your lips
And chills you to the bone
I envy the wind

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Ours too! We played it my senior year, and I still have the sheet music--God, somewhere. I loved that song possibly more than I've ever loved anything we played.

Love Chicago and The Eagles, though I didn't know I was listening to them until college, when their One True Fan would play it, and I'd be like I KNOW THAT SONG! It was fairly funny in retrospect.

You now what always amazes me? That some music sounds like the stars. I can understand how certain music evokes nature - we have nature's sounds to guide us there, so it's not really shocking that Beethoven's sixth symphony really does sound like a storm. But stars? What hidden part of our brains associates certain sounds, melodies, combinations of instruments, with stars? It's weird and wonderful.

Now I'm deeply curious. What music has that effect on you?

I wonder if it's infinite space. *thinking* That hugeness stretched out between glittering points of light. Ever since A Farm in Iowa, I've wanted to hear that music collection based on astrophysics. I can't imagine what it would be like, even with the descriptions.

Actually (I've been thinking about this, off and on), it occurs to me that maybe I've just been conditioned by childhood "Cosmos" watching, lol, because the music that immediately pops into mind is Vangelis, their old stuff. But I don't think that's all of it - I think of space, astronomy, the stars, when I hear music that is cold and clean, sometimes electronic but not always; thin, sharp sounds in steady progressions.

It's breathtaking, every time.

Much like this post.

It made me happy.

*hugs* thank you, hon.

Occasionally, if I feel like morbid ruminating, I consider whether it would be worse to be suddenly made completely deaf or completely blind. Currently I'm going with deaf, because I think music would be able to console me better for losing my sight than reading poetry or good novels would console me for losing my hearing. Not that I love it more, necessairily, but in a deeper, less intellectual way.

I've--done that too. I've never decided if it scared me more to have to learn to read all over again with my fingers or to live in perfect silence.

butting in, sorry.

I've always said that I would be able to live with going blind easier than I would be able to deal with no more music. Sounds have such an effect, I couldn't live without it. That would make me go crazy.

I spent many afternoons doing my homework under the Pearl beer sign in the back room of John and Lisa's bar out on Hwy 80 in Gladewater. My Dad would get off work around 4 and Mom would load me and my older sister up and meet him there for dinner three or four times a week. The back booth next to the jukebox was my territory and Ms. Lisa always had fifty cents for me as long as I would play a Marty Robbins song for her. To this day, I can hear "Big Iron" and be 10 years old laying in a booth reading while my dad is sitting at the bar and Mom is in the kitchen with my sister and Ms. Lisa cooking burgers or putting together steak plates.

I can hear "There Is No Arizona" by Jamie O'Neal and it's the winter of '93 when we had an ice storm that knocked out electricity for 3 days. We decided to stay in our home because we couldn't find a hotel that would accept our parrots. I woke up in the middle of the night and that song was playing on the radio. It was so quiet and still, it was like the whole world was me and the song.

The first four notes of "Wish You Were Here" take me back to college and sitting up in the lighting/sound booth in the theatre department. My friend Adam fed the CD through the sound system and when that song started those notes just echoed through the whole theatre. He cemented my love affair with Pink Floyd right then.

My mom used to sing "In the Garden" and other gospel songs when she paid the bills.

I lied to my parents and drove to Dallas in 1979 with some friends to see KISS in concert at Six Flags.

My sister will deny it vehemently, but I have caught her singing "The Beautiful People" by Marilyn Manson. It's my fault for playing stuff like that.

Ultravox, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and Gang of Four helped me make it through high school.

"Money" by the Flying Lizards can make me dance. Anywhere. Just ask the carhop at Sonic.

"Barbara Anne" is best sung while drunk on fuzzy navels and floating in a pool at 4 A.M. in the middle of summer.

Matthew Good is my favorite Canadian.

The best day of my life was spent at a Robert Earl Keen concert, sitting around on a blanket singing and eating and drinking beer. People would walk by and join us or just talk for a few minutes. I learned that day that nothing encourages friendliness like drunks with guitars and cold beer. There were kids and older people, and one stunning biker with an equally stunning girlfriend and the most beautiful Harley I have ever seen. After the concert, we went to my cousin's house and played and sang bluegrass all night long. It was a redneck Woodstock.

To date, I have bought more than 15 copies of "The Wall" in various forms, including a bootleg 8-track.

I have seen that George Strait guy in concert 6 times, Clint Black 4, and the Eagles and Mellisa Etheredge is the highlight of my concert career so far. Mellisa sang "Come To My Window" on a dark stage, acapella. The Eagles opened with "Hotel California". How can you beat that?

Country music is my comfort when I'm sick, "Moonlight Sonata" keeps me company when I can't sleep, "Fuck You" by the Headstones really is the best fuck off and die song ever, and "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails is sex set to a bass beat and it makes me a little squirmy every time I hear it. "Nightmare" by Pat Green sums up the loss of musical heroes in a way that no other song can for me. "It's Only Rock and Roll To Me" is the first video I watched and I went and bought Glass Houses the next day. It's still my favorite Billy Joel album. My will includes instructions to play Green Day and Robert Earl Keen at my wake. I love it when my cousin Scott calls and asks me "have you heard that new Shooter Jennings song?" or when my best friend Lou calls and sings me lyrics and then says "Remember that song? What's the name of that?"

"Interstate Love Song" and "Love Song" really are love songs, just a little unconventional and "Unforgettable" by Nat King Cole is THE love song of all time.

There is music in my home 24 hours of the day. Justascream said in your comments that music can change the way you breathe. I don't think anyone could say it better than that. Thank you for this post. It's lovely to revisit and share those memories.


I don't understand it, music--why simple melody can break me or inspire me, why the right playlist can keep me up for days and the wrong one reduce me to tears.

I don't understand it either, although I've seen theories on the way music affects our brains, lighting up our pleasure centers and doing other nifty stuff. I know that I can be enraged and then listen to Bach or Vivaldi and get lost in the patterns, lost enough that calm descends and the rage seems like a distant memory.

Appalachian Spring is transcendental. So is Beethoven's 9th Symphony - I took an afternoon off work in the mid-90s, time I couldn't really afford, to attend a matinee performance by the National Symphony Orchestra and ended up weeping through the Ode to Joy because it was just that beautiful.

And the songs I hear on the radio, the moment the lyrics *click* and they're saying something incredibly true and essential about *me*, about my life and who I am, and how did this artist do that, pull it out of my soul and set it to music?

Oh yes, music is lifeblood. I couldn't exist without it.

I'm so glad I kept skipping back.

Ask me an age, and I can tell you the music that influenced me then. The first few bars of a song can come on and I can tell you what it is.

My sister comes to me to tell her who sings this or that song.

I don't watch that much tv, I listen to music. My parents got me an iPod shuffle for Christmas. I think that was the best present ever. 220 songs, and I still have to change it up at least once a week because I've heard all the songs about three times.

My writing, fan fic or original is almost completely influenced by music.

I have mixes for certain times in my life. I have an entire playlist just for my boyfriend. I have songs that represent the people in my life.

and there's still more music that I haven't heard. that I haven't devoured.

Phantom> is my first musical love, Wicked my most recent. I love both because they tell a great story. Even without the background of the books they're based on.

The first time my heart was hurt was to Don't Take the Girl. broken was to (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, most recently to Best I Ever Had the Gary Allan version. It's more painful than the original.

Even my depression has a musical soundtrack...

I have no clue when or even if I'm getting married, but I already know what I'll be dancing to with my father. Because that will happen.

I don't think that my life would be anything close to the same if it didn't include music. I know it wouldn't. It wouldn't be my life.

I keep checking back as well- this is a lovely thread that Jenn has started. Like you, I can't see my life without music and it truly mystifies me when people say they don't listen to it. Right now, I'm burning through the old MGM musicals with my cousin. Can you believe she's 15 and had never seen a musical? "Harvey Girls" and "Singin' In the Rain" are topping the list right now. She is repaying me by e-mailing attachments of Akon and Gwen Stefani songs.

I have to agree with you on the Gary Allan version of "Best I Ever Had". He has so much pain in his voice. "Songs About Rain" just kills me.


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