Music is a time machine

Reading my blog, it’s more than apparent that I reminisce a lot. I am hung up on the past not because I am incapable of living in the present, but because the past houses so many people that I wish were a part of today. And so when skype, facebook and pictures fail me… I visit memories. I don’t do this intentionally but I find that listening to music takes me to events and moments that are beginning to tatter and yellow in my brain.

Like shoes, hairdos and the style of my jeans, music changes with time and my computer rarely plays the music that I used to listen to two years ago. With so many new artists and genres that I am discovering, my taste has altered and I am drawn to new beats and voices. It’s just the natural progression of things… music happens.

I’ve never intentionally stopped listening to certain bands, but when I first moved back to Nepal I had a long list of artists and several playlists that would take me back to time spent with my ex-boyfriend. Amos Lee would make me think of the thousands of drives we took between his house and mine. The Shins made me remember how he used to “woo” along to the beginning of “Kissing the Lipless”, The Swell Season would make me weep over our favorite movie (and only musical we ever agreed on) “Once”… and the list goes on and on and on. At first, in fits of girlish drama, I would play “our songs” (“Pills” by “The Perishers” being on top of the list) and allow the tears to roll down my face while I dreamt of his… I would replay memories in my head as if that would enable me to change anything and I would mourn the end of “us”.

Eventually I got my shit together and put articles that reminded me of him (save for a sweater I love and a few items of jewelry I still wear) in “The Ex-boyfriend Box” that I popped on top of my shelf. I went on a mad hunt for new music and refused to listen to anything that would take me back to the past, he was moving on and it was time I did too. I banned music I loved.

New music gave way to new memories. Unfamiliar bands connected me to different people, and a change in voices created connections to other friends. That’s just the way it is, and I was happy to update my iPod to albums that had nothing to do with the ex. But music is universal and inevitably I would run into old tunes… in movies, walking down the street, on my friend’s playlist and my heart would wince and tighten at the familiar sounds I had tried to forget. I believe once or twice I even asked my friend to change the song because my weak heart couldn’t take it.

I remember in seventh or eighth grade I had a music teacher, a small mousy woman who always had perfect posture, and though I don’t remember much of that class (except how I couldn’t get a piccolo to make sound under my command) I remember her love of music. One class in particular, in a fit of emotion, enraged at my class she emphatically said, “Don’t tell me music doesn’t matter, music has caused people to do great things, it has changed lives and it has even driven people to kill themselves.” (I then wanted to listen to the song that drove a man to take his life, but then I didn’t want to hear it for fear I too would be driven to suicide). Point being, music does matter and music is powerful.

Over a year of hearing only silence from Sufjan Stevens, The Flight of the Conchords, and Jose Gonzalves, I’ve got to the point where I’m almost mad at myself for denying my ears and my soul some damn fine songs. At this point, thinking about him doesn’t hurt, thinking about him I can smile and remember the good times, if anything I now feel like I owe an apology to all the beautiful lyrics, piano pieces and guitar riffs that I was foolish enough to block.

Though hearing those sounds were painful at once time, there are songs that make me think of middle school with my best friend (“Last Kiss” by Pearl Jam, “Kiss Me” by Six Pence None the Richer, and “Will You Wait For Me” by Kavana are classics), there are albums and artists (anything by Girltalk, Death Cab for Cutie, Damien Rice, Regina Spektor, The Decemberists,) and songs (“Promiscuous Girl” “Smack That” “Gold Digger”) that were vital to my college years and what I’m listening to now (The National, Saltillo, Wintersleep, Bowerbirds, Passion Pit) will bring me back to these years.  Music, it’s an auditory walk down memory lane and my life has a pretty epic soundtrack.

  1. okay, so great post as always, but brilliant last line!

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