Sound Memories

In today’s SoundBlog; HarS wrote about sound-related memories and nostalgia. Although I’ve primarily been writing reviews of music until now, one of the main goals of beginning to write “Startling Moniker” was so I could present entries of this nature. My problem has been that every time I start writing, my ideas diverge into so many directions that I realize the impossibility of containing myself. Sound so completely dominates my memory and thinking that it is difficult at best to single out instances for inclusion.

I should start with saying that, until a certain point in my life, I had always defined myself internally as a person who was not interested in music or sound. Looking back, it is quite clearly the opposite– I was so caught up with sounds that I didn’t realize the depth of my involvement. This is not to say I was some sort of prodigy– just that I did not realize that paying attention to a certain level of detail was considered “interested” in something. I would have supposed myself no different than any other person.

But then I look back. I remember playing selections from my grandfather’s record box– “Mixed Nuts,” a polka tunes record; Dean Martin’s “Houston” album (which I recognized two weeks ago in a thrift store bin and promptly purchased), a rock ‘n’ roll history album narrated by Alan Freed. I remember tracing the mapped roads on the Motown record label, never suspecting they were real places.

Sitting alone in the woods as a young teen, I remember being overwhelmed and fascinated by the sound of insects. No longer individually distinguishable from my “nest” in the cattails, I focused on the “layers” of sounds produced by the closest insects; and soon found myself “moving” through layer upon layer of what was probably millions of insects. It was my “John Cage moment” where I saw that there really wasn’t any silence– just sounds we ignored. It’s funny– even though I hardly spent a moment of my summer job picking up golf balls without a Walkman stuck to my hip (Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?” on constant repeat) I still wouldn’t have known I was a music lover, and a lover of sound.

I played Jimi’s album with such regularity on my bus rides to and from school that, like syncing “The Wall” with “The Wizard of Oz,” certain actions of the bus ride took on an odd significance when consistantly experienced with the music. Thus, “Manic Depression” is a song I associate with mornings, leaving home, and “I Don’t Live Today” is the bus, passing the local prison. “Third Stone From the Sun” is afternoon, approaching home. Even while experimenting with the overtones produced by my cassette tape copy of Metallica’s “Kill ’em All” (specifically, the first 30 seconds or so of “Metal Militia”) didn’t clue me in. I suppose a lot of music lovers have these sorts of memories. Maybe, maybe not.

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