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.