Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My Musical Autobiography

My final project for my THEOLOGY & POP MUSIC class is exciting: "write out (in some way, shape or form) your musical biography and hand in a life mix tape/CD to go with it." I found a used record at a store the other day that I cut up because its cover had bands and singers from the 20th century (mostly from the 60s and 70s) typed in tiny font all over the front in pink and blue and yellow and red and purple writing. In big, bold, funky white letters on the front the name of the record was aptly titled I BELIEVE IN MUSIC.

This is where I'm beginning. Let the process begin.

I called my childhood best friend Emiline and asked her to the lyrics of a song our 2nd grade teacher Mrs. Rexford taught us and she remembered. She began to sing it as if no time had passed, rhyming lyrics and all. I couldn't believe it. Music, I'm constantly reminded, is the substance running underneath my love and near obsession with cinema. If it weren't for music, I wonder if I would've ever even been attracted to writing stories or watching movies or making them or anything. Music is the reason I want to dance. It's the reason I exercise. I know I know I should do it because I want to be healthy and live healthily and sure, that's part of it, but I doubt my running would be consistent if I wasn't able to listen to "That's Just What You Are" by Aimee Mann, "All Mine" by Portishead, "Unison" by Bjork, or "All The Trees Of The Field Will Clap Their Hands" by Sufjan Stevens. If these artists didn't share their talent, their gift to the world, think of how different people would be. Think of how boring our world would be.

I was reminded of this yesterday when my iPod went dead just before I began a nice bike ride around Pasadena. I stopped, looked down at the display screen and felt disgruntled and upset and threw my hands up asking, "what's the point of riding a bike now!?" Maybe that was more internally, but whatever it was, I walked my bike back to my apartment complex, parked it, locked it up and went to go charge my iPod.

I'll ride tomorrow maybe, I thought.

This is what music does to me.

And then there's the end of 1998, when my first car (I bought) Nissan's radio deck, cassette tape deck, whatever you wanna call it, was dead. I thought it wouldn't be so bad. I thought, "now I can drive peacefully and enjoy nature and meditate on being still and knowing God is God and become a more serene, responsible teenage driver."

That thought didn't last long.

I think it took 2 days for me to bring my yellow Sony half-sports boom box (battery operated) into my Nissan, wedging it between the driver and passenger seat with the speakers pointing up toward heaven. Every classmate or youth group friend or sibling that would drive with me was now blasted with music from the bottom of my car up, the sound waves bouncing up against their left ear lobe and quickly rushing up into their eardrum. And the sound, in all honesty, wasn't so bad. It was music and music makes driving worth it too. Even while driving across the country, the scenery may get old but the car's soundtrack (as long as it's playing) will make the ride worth it. It will make 32 hours driving from Michigan to California feel like a few seconds from a dream. This is another reason why music is so important. This is another area of our lives it pervades, most of the time, without us even recognizing it.

In 2004, this realization really took form inside me and it came in the form of a Leonard Sweet book on leadership called, "Summoned To Lead." In this book, Sweet writes of leaders being called, hearing the sound so intently so persuasively that they envision a future (first through sound, through hearing and then through seeing and looking) they can lead people into. This kind of blew my mind.

I always answered the childhood question, "would you rather be blind or deaf" with a resounding, "DEAF!!" But now, I'm amazed. As sure as I was when I was 7 years old, who would believe I could change my mind and change it so certainly. Now, the same question gets answered with a resounding, "BLIND! Of course! That's easy. No question." Some people still disagree with this, but that's because they've never thought about how much they depend on sound, on noise, on music to color the days of their lives. They don't see the dozens of way music faces them daily and they also don't see how much they enjoy it. They take music for granted and I am included in this group.

So this project is helping me not take music for granted. It's helping me realize that my life biography, really could also be synonymous with my musical autobiography. Music is there greeting me in every area, every (st)age of my life. At age 2, it's old records playing "Santa Lucia" and "My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean" as I dance in a euphoric, chubby state. At age 6, it morphs into VBS spelling songs such as "I Am A C...I Am A CH...I Am A C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N" or "O-B-E-D-IENCE." At age 8, my dad lets me listen to music from his days and "What The World Needs Now Is Love" and "Alley Oop" spring into my mind. At age 9, Paul Overstreet's "Pick Up The Shovel" and "All The Fun" blast through my dad's maroon 2-Door Buick Somerset on the 7 minute trip to school every morning. How I got to one day listening to Regina Spektor and Sigur Ros and The Roots and Eels is beyond me, but that story is now being told--in my head and onto the written page.

This is another picture of Grace, I think. That despite my upbringing, despite my conservative Christian school, despite some legalism in the church here and there, my ears would one day still come to hear beauty in music that went beyond a Disney theme song key change. Not by my own accord but by people around me, (and God, too I think) constantly showing me the way.

And this is one reason why I love, why I Believe In Music.


nateshorb said...

This essay gets an A+.

In the middle of it, I wished that there was some sort of supernatural lifetime iTunes play count, that kept track of all of the songs you've sang or heard in your lifetime along with their frequency.

I hope that's one of the questions we're allowed to ask God and his angels when we get to heaven.

And remember with Dr. Ringenberg says in his book 'Letters to Young Scholars' -- music is one of the windows of heaven.

Corie said...

Great post.

Ahh, I so remember being in your car w/ the portable boom box! I can totally picture it now, I know exactly what that felt like being in the passenger seat! Oh man, memories I didn't even know I had. :) Thanks for actually making me smile about a memory from my high school years! Those are few and far between. :)

Julie said...

so... when do you get it back because i'm so excited to see it :)