I haven’t written in about six thousand years, and for this I apologize. Profusely.
Please know that as per my other absences of significant length, this here blog was never far from my mind, and in truth I was often struck by ideas and stories that I wished desperately to share, but I just never seemed to be able to glean enough time to just sit down and write.
Over the past three months I have started a new job, run a few races, recorded some radio shows, bicycled many, many kilometers, and repeatedly told myself whilst looking in a mirror “HOLY HELL I REALLY NEED TO DYE THESE ROOTS.”
(Still haven’t done anything about that last item, alas.)
Anyways, what I really want to expand upon at this moment has nothing to do with my brunette self valiantly battling against my bottled blond, and everything to do with music.
Namely, the world-transcending, soul-shaking music that makes us weak-kneed, and wet-eyed. The music that stops you dead in your tracks so that twenty years on you remember the exact moment when you first heard that song.
The music that seemed to save your life, or make your life, and the music that continually gives you life.
The music so perfect that it makes your heart ache with such a sweet melancholy you would swear it was magic.
A couple of weeks ago I read the awesome “We Oughta Know” by Andrea Warner. Part memoire, part music criticism, it looks at how four Canadian women (Sarah McLachlan, Alanis Morisette, Celine Dion, and Shania Twain) dominated the cultural landscape between 1993-1997. It’s a wonderful read – poignant, smart, funny, and incredibly relatable.
For me, reading about Warner’s love for McLachlan was like looking into a mirror (and seeing less roots, and more my tortured fifteen year old self who found so much solace in Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.)
I absolutely loved this album. (Just typing these words seems much too trite a way to sum up how much this collection of songs meant to me.)
Sarah spoke to me like no other artist could.
As a fervent feminist, who was unabashedly unashamed of my budding sexuality (in a world that heatedly contested both of these things) who was also taller, ganglier, and more pimply than an Ent Wife, this music made me feel sane.
It made me feel beautiful.
It make me feel sexy.
And it made me feel like I wasn’t alone.
This weekend Marc and I were up at his parent’s cabin on the Sunshine Coast. One of the best things about this place, besides the overwhelming beauty, tranquility, and perfection of the house and its surroundings, is its EPIC record collection.
We’re talking about music ranging from Nana Mouskouri, to the Rolling Stones, to Rod Stewart, to Swiss orchestral folk tunes, and everything else in between.
But the one record that I play the moment I get there (and then multiple times during our stay) is U2’s The Joshua Tree.
I swear on my life this may just be the best album ever recorded.
I feel like crying every time I hear the opening strains of Where the Streets Have No Name. It’s like an automated response buried deep inside of me.
Marc and I spoke at length about the ways in which music is now accessed – how different is in with social media, streaming, and downloading.
About how crazy it would have been to be a teenager in Ireland in the 80s; about what music would have been available, and how it would impact your life and on so many different levels (individually, social-politically, religiously, etc.)
Whereas today, with the internet, everything is available to everyone all of the time.
Gone is that magic of hearing that one song on the radio, and then going out and buying that album, or that tape, or that CD, and then having your mind blown as you discover all of the other tracks that you never even knew existed.
So much of the initial, magic sense of discovery is not only gone – but the mechanisms of it are no longer even in existence.
And I find that weirdly tragic.
The last time I was completely bowled over (soul-shakingly so) by band was when I had the insane opportunity to see Future Islands and Spoon perform at Malkin Bowl here in Vancouver.
Spoon has been one of my favourites (if not my favourite) band for a number of years, but I only really knew Future Islands peripherally.
Without waxing eloquently at lengthy (and sounding completely hyperbolic in my praise) they were hands down the best band I’ve ever seen in concert.
It wasn’t even because of their music – which was brilliant, and fun, and made me dance like a mad woman of the first order.
It was all because of Sam Herring’s insane stage presence.
I have never in my life seen a performer give so much of himself on stage. Watching him was unlike anything I have ever witnessed. It was pure energy and love.
It was madness, and genius, and inspiring as hell.
The next morning I woke up and ran twenty-five kilometers because everything in my body was telling me to go out and partake in something similar. And I did the entire thing singing Seasons in my head. (Half-smiling and half almost-crying.)
(I realize I may have a problem with this crying thing. But I’m okay with it.)
There have been so many other times throughout my life where I have been struck dumb by some amazing song, or brilliant band, or with how intrinsically perfectly a tune has married itself to a life event or milestone.
And I take solace in knowing that this is not strange.
Because music is so much that which shapes our hearts.
It is what makes our love.
It is our heart.
It is love.
11 thoughts on “If music be the food of love”
All very true. I’ve been thinking about modern music access too, and there is much to what you say, but it’s shaded by nostalgia, which is a strong force. On the other side, kids are no longer (or they don’t have to be) slaves to commercial radio. They are free to explore current and past music. It’s like having access to every newspaper or history book in the world, and that can’t be bad. Knowledge, musical or otherwise, is never wrong. I’m still discovering music, mostly via streaming and web radio, and catching up on bands that I missed over the years including Elbow and (coincidentally) Spoon. It’s a wonderful musical world. That said, kids will probably never be blown away again by a Joshua Tree. But they said that about Sgt. Pepper too, didn’t they?
Such a good point – these feelings are definitely couched in nostalgia. We weren’t saying that the ease of music access was necessarily a bad thing – just different. I mean, goodness knows we too profit from it! Funnily enough, we also talked about seeing Elbow live in 2003 knowing absolutely nothing about them. They were opening for Grandaddy, a band I liked well enough at the time, but holy heck did Elbow just slay. I remember standing there during Fugitive Motel thinking, “I will never be the same ever again.”
That’s so great. You could probably do a whole post on the impact of live music. I saw Sigur Ros in the open air on a peer in Montreal in 2008. It was almost spiritual.
Always a pleasure to read you on your blog, Vanessa! Just saw the Avett Brothers play at Red Rocks amphitheater this weekend and their energy was palpable. It was a treat to hear known songs new. So much so that my eyes filled with tears as I watched the cello player romp about and gave thanks for artists who can say the things I can’t. In meeting people, I like learning about whether an individual is a lyrical listener or a melodic listener. I’m a sucker for the words and have to make an extreme effort (I seldom do succeed) to focus on the melody alone, but there are many who do not comprehend the words at all. Our experience of art, musical or visual, is so individual. And its origin even moreso. These artists remain unaware of how their work affects their listeners, live or sixty years later. It encourages me to put forth creative effort in the hopes that someone may feel heard themselves.
redrox ?! –> yoosta be my back yard !
Just reading that makes me think of countless hours spent alongside a stereo, waiting for that perfect-yet-unknown song to begin and hitting record just so that I could have the joy of calling upon it whenever I pleased (well possibly after a lot of rewinding or fast-fowarding). I totally know what you mean that it seems so different to connect with music simply by clicking a link beside a youtube video compared to seeking it out or having a friend put it on a mix tape for you. I wonder, had I grown up in this era, how I would have felt about music. If I would have connected with it so so much, if it was all out there at my fingertips. (I know that doesn’t make sense, you would imagine I would love it more because it was easier to access – but then I would be robbed of weekend trips into Vancouver to troll the shelves of Scratch Records, to pick a few CDs to sample on their stereo and splurge on a few treasures – always poring over liner notes and lyrics on the Skytrain ride home.) I’m pretty glad that I got to discover so much music simply by going to a show, or picking up a zine, or listening to the best UBC radio show (Flex Your Head). I think it gave me so many more experiences (and the related nostalgia) than just putting in a search for “bands like ….” and clicking around. Phew, I think I grew up in just the right years.
I met Sarah early on in her career. She showed up with her hair in braids and wore overalls after flying in from Amsterdam and then by helicopter to get to our small gathering. She was just lovely, absolutely lovely, nice, gracious to me, and she sang with just her piano. She was phenomenal. A few of her songs are magic time machines for me.
As to your assessment of U2’s Joshua Tree- you are correct. It is the best album ever made by anyone ever. Where the Streets Have No Name gives me chills each time I hear it. Thanks for a great read!
I love it when you blog. Beautiful writing, as ever x
it continues to be fun watchin’ “the young ones” “discover” (awl theeze kwoatz?) what to me/us/whoever is theirs, but “old” music — and diggit. i still see 20-somethings really appreciating the beatles ~
Nice one, and never too late to add a comment (right?). The latest reply brings to mind my own obsession with the Beatles who influenced everything I am musically (directly, and by 2 or 3 generations down through later bands I loved). An older guy once said to me, “What? You’re too young for the Beatles!” and I replied quick as a whip, “Oh really, am I too young for Shakespeare?” Great art is timeless, and the plethora of options immediately available now will still winnow themselves down to some treasured discoveries that impact younger lives no differently than ours were impacted.