Discover Challenge: SONG

This week’s Discover Challenge proposes:

“[T]ell us the story of your special connection to one song…You could embed music videos into an essay or piece of memoir, share a collection of images that are connected to a song, or even share a…playlist for a true mixtape experience.”

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I’ve been mulling this challenge for the last week! Because for me, it’s not about what song to choose…it’s about which one. There are so many!!

As WordPress editor Ben Huberman notes in the challenge, music:

“…gives shape to so much of our daily lives, whether it floats around us as background noise or streams directly into our ears from our various devices. We constantly attach songs to people, places, and moments, and modify past associations as our relationships and personality evolve. Our mental archive of songs is an ever-expanding, complex network of memories and emotions (peppered with some badly remembered lyrics, for comic effect).”

That’s so well-stated!

I blog about my life and my self and how I feel about things – and I’m unable to separate music from those things. Even if I’m not overtly utilizing music in a post, it’s there in the background, living in my mind, wrapped up with the ideas, the dreams, the memories.

My life, if I really think about it, has a soundtrack. Certain songs, or groups of songs, or bands, are intrinsically wrapped up for me with certain moments or periods in my personal history.

It’s kind of like how certain scents can take you back in your mind. (Have you ever noticed that? Scent memory is so powerful.) For me, music might be even more powerful than scent. Certain songs take me right back in time. If I close my eyes and really let them take me over, the experience is truly like a time machine! I can feel what I used to feel as I listen – even if the conscious memories have grown foggy. The essence is retained in the song. The emotions are wrapped up in the lyrics and melodies, intertwined – and they live on with the song.

And it’s not just about history, of course. I’ve found much-needed guidance and roadmaps in music, and powerful solidarity. I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through certain periods of my life without music to lean on. (Here’s one incredibly potent example.)

And I can trace where I was at given moments on the “road of life” by re-listening to certain songs/albums and thinking about what they meant to me or what effect they had for me – which is so interesting! Sometimes when I don’t feel I’m making much progress, when I feel like my dreams/goals/ambitions are moving at such a frustrating snail’s pace, it helps to look back via music – because it comes clear to me when I do that how very far I’ve actually come. Like, I might still enjoy a particular song/album, but I realize, listening to it, that it doesn’t hold the same meaning for me anymore – and I realize that’s because I’ve changed…my life has changed. (I traced some of that in this post series, for example.) Life rolls forward. Growth happens. We move beyond particular periods (good and bad) and into other ones. That’s a powerful reality to reconnect with – and music is an incalculably helpful aid in this.

And then there’s the way that music helps me to know myself better, too. There’s something really potent, I’ve realized, in going beyond, “I like that song,” and into exploring why you do. I find myself doing that a lot in my blogging – partly because it’s fun! But also because it’s really powerful. Honestly, blogging with music is one of my most satisfying methods of formulating posts. It’s such an excellent tool for understanding yourself and getting a better grip on where your head is at and where you seem to be taking yourself. I have so many posts like that utilize music in this way. (This one might be my current favorite of that bunch – because the questions it raises for me about myself and about art and photography and communication are still very relevant and pertinent to my life and my understanding of my own self.)

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So what I’m getting at is: I just don’t know how to answer this challenge!!

I mean, I do…but I just don’t know how to pick a song. I can’t make up my mind!

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I finally decided to sort of evade the direct challenge and instead go ahead and just lay out a little playlist of what I’m listening to a lot right now. Talking about how much I enjoy blogging about my musical choices reminded me that I haven’t actually constructed such a post in a while! And I think the first step to doing it is to step back and take a look at myself. What am I listening to right now? What’s drawing me right this minute? And what does that say about where I’m at?

In the interest of keeping this post from growing to a monstrous size, I think I’ll save the in-depth analysis for another day. But there’s at least a little bit of insight to be found in just looking at the list, I think. At least, compiling it (as I did last night before bed) surprised me a little bit and got me thinking.

So here’s a sampling of what I’ve been listening to a lot lately…my current “life soundtrack,” if you will! With just a little bit of commentary:

The OMD, with the Pink cover, seems to be indicating a certain nostalgia thing! Or, if not “nostalgia” exactly – because I’m not sure that’s exactly what I’m feeling – a hearkening back at least.

A lot of R.E.M. is on my radar too, possibly for the same reason. I didn’t even realize how much R.E.M. I’ve been listening to lately until I tried to pick a few for this list!

I’ll start with this concert – because it reminded me, when I found it, of just how much I love Michael Stipe! Somewhere in my personal history, I don’t know when exactly, he came to represent just the essence of “cool” for me…and he still totally does. I don’t think there are very many people I could meet, really, and not be able to carry on some sort of coherent conversation – but I’m not sure I could actually talk to him and form real words!

I haven’t outgrown that…so I’m thinking I probably won’t! (I can’t decide if I think that’s sad or not!!)

And here’s more R.E.M. Every once in a while, I remember how very much I love this band! I go for a while and don’t really listen to them – and then they roar back onto my radar with a vengeance! This seems to be one of those “roaring back” times!:

I’ve also gotten very into this kind of atmospheric, ambient, carry-you-away kind of sound lately. The below two artists are two of my current favorites:

And, while I don’t listen to much pop music (except what my daughter makes me listen to) – I fell into this Pink song recently and it’s been sticking in my head. I don’t know why. It’s not because I’m some huge Pink fan (despite the fact that I have two of her songs on this list now!) And the lyrics aren’t personally meaningful for me. Is it her delivery, maybe? I have to explore that.

I’ve resumed heavy listening of the second (I think) Of Monsters and Men album – of which the below song/video is one very good sample. (I think “Black Water” might still be my favorite though):

And I’ve been listening to the below show a lot since I found it. Thirty Seconds to Mars perplexes me as a band, because I like them so much acoustically – but just can’t connect to them when they’re not acoustic. Like, at all. I don’t know why there’s such a dichotomy. I can’t figure it out. It’s the same songs!!! How can the delivery make that much difference? And it usually doesn’t for me for most bands (at least, not to this extreme level) – but it’s an essential difference for them.

And then you throw in the videos, as I’ve written about before…and I think I’m as intellectually interested in them as I am in their actual music. It’s that I feel like my reaction to them is telling me something about myself and my relationship to art that I still don’t fully grasp – and I want to!

But anyway, all that aside, this is a nice show! They really are so good acoustically. I love this version of “Closer to the Edge” (starts at about 5:31):

I’ll wind this list up with my most recent musical discovery. I just stumbled into the below a few days ago and can’t stop listening to it!:

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So that’s it! That’s a good sampling of what I’ve been listening to lately – which says something, I imagine, about where my head/life/emotions/psyche/soul is at.

I’ll have to give a little more thought as to what exactly I think that “something” actually is! 🙂

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