Sound Effects

Sometimes I wait at the top of the page for too long. I forget, decent writing almost never comes until I hear the music. How did I miss that? The bus, the train I need, the subway into my place of places. If I miss the ride for more than a day or so, I am the worst possible version of me. Paralysis and the loss of grace. Breath is something I have to hear. Every beat of music I hear is a ticket to go.

Once the music starts, everything just works better for me. My favorite way to listen is to make it a little random, either with some web radio or my iTunes set on shuffle play. What ever rolls into ear-view is fine, fine, fine.

Blood Sweat and Tears comes on the radio, and I’m right back in college. Our old crew is jammed into Bill C’s old LTD, it’s 2:20 a.m., we just left Strictly Tabu, our favorite bar where the Dallas Jazz Orchestra was tearing apart some new chart by Them Bones. Gary says something about needing a “Yield” sign to screw onto the side of his horn case and moments later, we are trying to find someplace to buy a screwdriver and some pliers. There was no such thing as an all night Walmart back then, so this task takes longer to complete than the time needed for all the beer and scotch to drain from our heads. Faded from the day, we decide to try again later and soon we are all back at Bill and Tim’s. We all crash, scattered around on the couch and chairs and small open places on the dusty, shag carpeting that floored every cheap apartment complex in 1980. Later, we would wake up, shower, and do it all over again. I can’t believe how lucky we all were to survive growing up.

College reminds me of a different kind of struggle. Before I knew enough about anything to be able to tell the difference between small comforts and real happiness. I was a music major, so one of the places I was required to spend a lot of time was the music library. There was maybe twenty-five small tables, each with a turntable and a set of headphones. In the back of the room, some other poor work study program kid (like me) was minding the counter and the handing out the vinyl. All you needed was the listening list from whatever mus-theory or mus-history 2029 section you were wading through. You hand over the list and someone handed you your stack. It was all part of the name-that-tune prep we needed to pass and hold onto our scholarships. Our exams would include about ten seconds of whatever obscure part of the composition the professor could find.

I would spend hours and hours trying to memorize huge stretches of incredible musics, all the while, often missing the joy of the sounds I was hearing. The strange part was, whatever class I went to after I left the music library, was the easiest class in the world. It was years later before I realized the connection between those tunes and the ability to use my own head.

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