January 11, 2018

sing your heart out

It's a marvel and a wonder that I ever get exposed to new music.

I experience bull-headed, slammed-door resistance to anything I don't already know.  If someone asks me to listen to a song, I balk and refuse.  "Not right now," I say, or "I don't want to listen to it with you, maybe by myself in my car."  I have strong emotional reactions to any music, any kind, and I'm way too neurotic to let someone else watch that manifest, even those closest and safest to me.  I guess that's one of the reality TV episodes where my inner child runs and hides.  Or maybe it's an ABC After-School Special.


To be fair, I've been burned.  P.J. once pulled up "Muskrat Love" on YouTube and showed me the Captain & Tennille video.  My therapist and I haven't gotten to that one yet.  We're working on the small stuff first.


I know I'm missing out on some of the best the world has to offer.  I get that.


Here's the weird part:  Because I don't easily let in new stuff, what I do know dovetails with another odd tendency I have, which is to listen to and watch the same things over and over.  And over.


When I was 11, during summer vacation, I watched the movie Beetlejuice eighty-six times.  Every day.  Winona Ryder was a goddess.  I could lip-sync the
Banana Boat song along with Catherine O'Hara perfectly, if no one was watching.


I can quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Blues Brothers, and Pulp Fiction verbatim.  I have the soundtracks to all three.


But sometimes, P.J. or my son, a teacher or a close friend, will find a chink in the armor and successfully break through with something.  I hear it, I listen to it, I absorb it.  I'm like my daddy; if I hear it twice, it's recorded in my brain.  It's mine.  And once it gets in and I embrace it, it becomes part of me, in the safe zone, and melts into the soundtrack of my life.  Nanci Griffith.  Dar Williams.  Kate Campbell.  Mozart.  Handel.  Verdi.  The Kruger Brothers.

I used to sing in the chorale adjunct to our local symphony.  Every time I was handed a new piece of music, I despised it until I was forced to learn it.  Then it became part of me, another gemstone.  You'd think I would have learned by now how I work.


The only radio station I can abide is WNCW.  You really never know what they'll play, but it somehow got "safe" status with me.  P.J. introduced it to me and we have it streaming constantly in our kitchen.  At night, we switch to ambient music or PsychoMed Baroque or Classical streaming out of Greece, which I highly recommend.  What I cannot do, what I have not done in many years (in addition to watching any TV whatsoever), is listen to a regular radio station.  I don't know any of the music, and commercials with amplified voices are a rusty cheese grater against my soul.  I can actually feel my heart rate increase, if I'm in a lobby or store somewhere where I can't escape the auditory pollution of live radio.  


When I was sick last month, I had a pretty bad fever one evening and was napping on the couch.  When I woke, the kitchen was streaming Cardoso's Missa Pro Defunctis, written in 1625.  Due to the fever, it was the most beautiful, innards-grabbing music I had ever heard in my life, medieval madrigal jumping right past the Renaissance and landing in early Baroque territory.  P.J., whose taste in music is objectively superior to mine, had been about to turn it off because she thought it sounded like a dirge.  I grabbed my laptop and ordered the CD, then took some Tylenol.  


So my musical life consists almost entirely of the contents of a USB drive in my car that contains rips of all of my folk music and choral classical CDs and downloads, peppered with a bit of Tim Minchin and The B-52s and Simon & Garfunkel.  My car, like for most commuting and errand-running and road-tripping people, is my personal concert hall.  In an unusual display of giving no fucks whatsoever about what other people think, I sing at the top of my lungs, not caring if anyone sees how into it I am.  Messiah is pretty much year-round on the menu, but I switch it up from time to time.  Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" is a close second.  Billy Idol sometimes rocks "White Wedding".


I never get tired of listening to the same music.  It hits a brain center.


I sing wild and free on the way to work each morning, usually choral stuff.  It's almost always dark, given my early hours.  I'm a kick-ass soprano in my car.  As my ears adjust to the volume, I crank up the music a little louder, a little louder, so that the recorded voices (and sometimes guitar riffs) continue to be piercing and arresting.  Eventually the volume is maxed out.  Then when I near my work building, I turn it down to what I think is an acceptable level.  But it's still blaring, and my car sounds like an ice cream truck coming up the street, one more likely to be selling rosaries than rocket pops.  


Ooo!  Another freaky trait.  My brain does this thing where, when I leave work for the day and am walking back to my car (which I don't park far away on purpose like people say you should do because that would mean the 'e' word), as I walk, I get the same music in my head that I was listening to that morning, unbidden, unprompted, and at the exact same place I left off.  It's a completely unconscious process.  


Get back into the car and start it.  Take off your work badge.  Put on sunglasses.  Head down the road.  Crank up the music and sing.  Sing your heart out.

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