song.context.result began as a small feature that personally felt important to share. starting with the small question of “tell me about a moment, a song and what it meant to you” seemed in taste to know how music can bring anyone privately back to a special memory.
awhile back, i asked some of my favorite music bloggers to kindly join me in this project and now am happy to share their own answers on musicisart. remaining true to the spirit of this assignment being anonymous, the authors shall remain private; however, still deserve special recognition for their honest contributions.
be sure to visit musicisart next week for another edition of this series.
Song: Fallen Embers
by Enya [A Day Without Rain, 2000]
Context: August 12, 2001 in my dad’s hospital room as he was leaving this world this was one of the songs I played for him with these little speakers I had.
result: I never saw my dad more at peace then when he was listening to this song. It was really quite beautiful.
by Slowdive [Holding Our Breath, 1991]
Context: Winter 1992. Wandering a local beach. Sony Walkman actually working. Watching faraway seagulls catching a ride on the waves. Thinking about a failed relationship. Crying. Being hard on myself.
Result: At the end of the walk, where beach turned into sea, I resolved to stop destroying my life in a blizzard of lies. People, it seems, appreciate truth and honesty. Decided that I had to be braver and stop avoiding confrontation. Even if the truth hurts it should always be your default option. But it can be so, so hard to turn and change the habit of a lifetime (wearing masks).
song: The Tower of Learning
by Rufus Wainwright [Poses, 2001]
context: It was an absolutely perfect sunny day in San Diego’s Balboa Park, and I was walking by myself. I had just found out that the man I loved did not and would not ever return my feelings.
result: My heart was broken. I walked for hours, sobbing, and I didn’t care who saw me. I felt alone, utterly alone in a city where I knew no one, and I just wanted to disappear and never return. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to go on, and the words “I really do fear that I’m dying, I really do fear that I’m dead” were all I could hear.
Song: Mojo Pin
by Jeff Buckley [Grace, 1994]
context: Paris, 1998, sixteen years old, my first time in the city. After having a fight with my friends, I stormed out of our hotel and down a random alley. It was drizzling; the streets were as slick as greased hair. I had only my Discman to keep me company. I had no idea where I was heading, blaring Jeff Buckley’s sinuous song on repeat and trying not to break something. Finally, I ended up in a bar, where the owner spoke no English and I had to pantomime clumsily to get a shot of whiskey.
Result: I felt invincible, understood. Buckley’s trickle from calm to caterwaul was just what I needed to hear that night.
Song: Good Woman
by Cat Power [You Are Free, 2003]
Context: My girlfriend and I had just broken up and I had about a half mile walk back to my car in the rain, and then I got lost for some reason on the way home because I had to take a detour, so, needless to say, a pretty sad situation. I got back to car and put my ipod on shuffle and this was the first song that came on. I then put it on repeat and listened to it all the way home.
Result: The song ended up making me even sadder than I already was, but for some reason, it felt comforting at the same time. I can’t listen to that song anymore without reliving that night in my head and getting a little teary eyed.
by Ben Lee [Awake is the New Sleep, 2005]
Context: Sometimes the shuffler is telepathic. Autumn 2006, first semester in the city. I’m walking down Broadway – just as Ben sings it – a bit uncertain about geography. Even as the instruments swell, I can still hear cars honking, but they don’t seem nearly as angry.
Result: The city feels a little smaller, a little more manageable.
Song: Vito’s Ordination Song
by Sufjan Stevens [Greetings from Michigan, 2003]
Context: I had just moved in with the girl I had fallen in love with. We lived in different countries then, and I came to stay with her hoping to get out of a severe bout of depression, which I did. We mixed our favourite albums like paint, but this song was one we had both come to in our own separate ways. Playing music together, this song was one we rarely played, I don’t know why. She sang it herself while working, and when she did, the lyrics developed a new meaning completely separate to what they had been before, handily drawn in to the feelings we shared, part of a little dream we created.
After two months were over I left for home, and promptly plunged into an experience worse than anything of the last few years. Everything I had left behind greeted me again, backed up by the shocked and stung feeling of being apart, I had little with which I could react. I would sit alone playing this song, listening to it, murmuring the words, imagining her voice alongside mine, quiet and close. At night when going to bed I would imagine her singing it, clinging to anything of her I could remember. This went on, until one night I sent her a message telling her this, how I had nothing but this voice in my head. She replied, telling she had been singing it alone to her empty bed.
Result: We survived the months apart, and now we share an apartment again, but rarely, if ever, play or hear this song. It doesn’t mean the same thing anymore, which is fine. I’m sure it will come back again at some point. It makes a good reminder.
Song: I Don’t Need This Pressure, Ron
by Billy Bragg [Reaching to the Converted 1999]
Context: My musical cookie jar is chock-full of Proustian madeleines. Whenever I pull one out to snack on, the aural taste catalyzes a flow of memories and emotions that can often be quite affecting. One such biscuit was baked shortly after the birth of my Darling Daughter, almost eight years ago.
Her arrival was one of the two most amazing, wondrous, electrifying, and joyous events of my life. The other was the birth of my son, Little Man, some three years later. However, along with the exhilaration came fear and trepidation; I recall changing Darling Daughter’s nappy for the first time with hands trembling from the fear that I might break her. This was all so precious and fragile, I remember thinking, and I feel so incompetent and ill-prepared to care for it.
As babies in the first weeks of life are wont to do, Darling Daughter often had spells of uncontrollable bawling in the evening. It was really quite nerve-fraying; she would cry and cry and howl and turn red and cry and cry and screw her face up and cry and cry. One evening, as I paced the hall with this seemingly inconsolable bundle of life, I recalled someone suggesting that singing often soothes babies. But what to sing? I quickly realized that my knowledge of lullabies had evaporated, leaving only the most unsatisfactory ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’intact. So I opened my mouth and in hushed, soothing tones began to sing…
A Billy Bragg song. Yes, you read right.
Result: It wasn’t even one of his lovey-dovey songs; indeed, it was “I Don’t Need This Pressure, Ron,” his strident, acapella affirmation of Socialist beliefs. But I knew all the words, it had the right lulling tempo when sung at the appropriate speed, and, most importantly, it worked. By the second time through, Darling Daughter was beginning to calm down. By the fifth iteration, I kid you not, she was nodding off to sleep. The song thus became my magic balm to soothe and comfort both my small people in times of distress, and it rarely failed to work. The children grew to know it as “The Banging Song” after its first line (“What was that bang?”) and would often request it in times of meltdown.
Those parents among you will understand the deep sense of relief, peace, and gratitude that comes when one is actually able to soothe one’s upset offspring. To be able to comfort and quiet a child is to be afforded a moment of grace. And that is why every time I hear “I Don’t Need This Pressure, Ron” I am reminded of the immense privilege and joy that Little Man and Darling Daughter give me.
So if you do catch me humming the song with damp eyes, you’ll now know it’s not because I’m thinking of freedom, solidarity, and liberation…
photography by mike hollingshead
[learn about the history of these storms, its amazing.]