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I was asked today if I could read music. I laughed. A lot. When it comes to music, I am without a doubt as far as one can get on the appreciation side of the spectrum, as far away from creation as one can get.
Despite my inability to make it, I sure love it.
This love has always inspired me to make the clichéd mix tapes. At first that was a middle school me in the 1990s, waiting by listening to the radio, waiting by the boom box (remember those clunkers?!) to hit “Record” to get that song down on cassette (oh, man, another mini clunker of technology). The miles and miles I had of tape was quickly phased out by stacks of shiny, opalescent CDs in the early years of this millennium, a new tool who too faded as technology flourished. Today, streamed notes and melodies flow through a pair of rose gold Beats wirelessly; it’s kind of crazy to think of how far we have come in such a short amount of time.
Even crazier? How well tunes have stood the test of time.
Shakespeare said in Twelfth Night that ““[i]f music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it; that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die.” Music is like a math, a universal language that tells tales and truths for as long as they are listened to and enjoyed. I think it is important for us to have a soundtrack for our lives—a curated collection of songs that stand for who we are, partly because of who we were when we first hear them. Smell may be the sense most closely related to memory, but hearing is a close second in my world, which has these ten songs as their soundtrack:
- “Higher” by Creed. This was my class song; while it was not the one I voted for, anytime I hear it I am brought back to 2000-2001, and the blur that Senior Year was.
- “Five Years Time” by Noah and the Whale. A song that dares to say the truth about a half decade: In five years time I might not know you/ In five years time we might not speak/ In five years time we might not get along/ In five years time you might just prove me wrong. It’s a forever favorite.
- “Jerusalem” by Matisyahu. Let’s face it: I love JLem. It’s the city of my faith, the tattoo of my right foot (directly inspired by Pslam 137:5—“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning”). This song that sings her praises in a politically charged diaspora anthem that stresses the city of his Majesty has a permanent place on my playlist.
- “This’ll Be My Year” by Train. A “We Didn’t Start the Fire” for the modern ages, Pat Monahan and his crew pieced together important aspects of the late twentieth century and those early in the twenty-first, all while lauding the fact that he/they will now longer be alone as time and history move on. This song came out the year I turned 30, which was pivotal year in the history of me, so it serves as a reminder of growth, both internally and externally.
- “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” by They Might Be Giants. I first heard this in an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures and it recounts history. Enough said.
- “Miracle of Miracles” from Fiddler on the Roof. This is my Broadway/musical jam. It’s good for a pick-me-up, as it serves as a reminder that wonders happen at moments when we need the most, and we just need to know as long as we believe and are ready for them, they will be there for us.
- “Troublemaker” by Weezer. I’m a troublemaker, never been a faker. I am doing things my own way, and never giving up.
- “Inside Out” by Eve 6. Every teenage girl needs an angsty song they can blast for hours after school on a bad day. For me, this was that song, and I still use it to release on a not-optimal day.
- “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by The Beatles. Yes, I know; this was essentially an LSD trip with words put to music…but my eyes have always been my favorite part of me—they are green with flecks of brown and orange, and very much remind me of kaleidoscopes.
- “American Girl” by Tom Petty. Literally my song. Everything stated in these lyrics applies to me…right down to that “old 441,” which is a country road I would frequently take to get to both my college and my second teaching position. It was on this laid tar that I often thought that there has got to be more to this world that an old Itasca County road, and it has always been my goal to search far and wide to tell the stories of our world.
While I can’t play a single note or carry any form of a tune, I have a deep place in my life for music. These ten songs are just a fraction of the music that plays through my world as if they are in the background of My Life: The Movie. In real life, however, these are the ditties that define my days.