time to change the way we view music and the arts

An Album for Every Occasion

Now that “Throw the Dice” has reached its first birthday, I was contemplating what today’s post should be for. Should I do a play off of a celebrity birthday? A party themed topic? Make a pun about cake in my post title? Ignore the detail altogether? Not that I’m charging any of you money to read my writing, I’ve always just wanted to inspire thought into people’s everyday lives and have fun while doing it but I did consider my marketing options on this one.

Regardless, I would like to say thank you once again to every person who has ever read this blog, shared it with their colleagues or friends, left a comment or just taken an extra moment to re-think about a fragment of the music and arts industries. You are what make this blog bigger than what it started as or ever could hope to be on its own. Doesn’t matter if you’ve been reading since day one or just found this post today. I have personally seen, heard and learned so much in the past year and I’m glad there are people out there with whom to share my questions, frustrations and aspirations. I just hope any of you has gotten something equally positive out of what I do too.

What came to my mind when I thought about the past year of industry changes, passionate postings and creative questions is something that I think anyone with a favorite song can relate to: Mixes.

I’m talking about the mixes we make with a combination of any number, genre and length of songs for all the people in our lives.
(Sorry engineers, this one’s not exactly geared toward you. Soon!)

Mix tapes, Mix CDs, recommended playlists, you name it. This isn’t a novel concept starting only from the time of digital distribution. Sharpie markers and those tiny lines, on which you’d hastily write down each carefully chosen track for whomever was the lucky enough soul to get your feelings burned onto the tape or disc made just for them. So many of these where made to embody and forever memorialize events past. Sure, songs can be written with this imminent purpose of use in mind, (think Vitamin C’s “Graduation (Friends Forever)”.) but each person’s connection to a song extended far beyond just the lyrics because the people they are surrounded by in their lives isn’t like anyone else’s circle of special people. That’s what would set mixes apart even if one track list was ever found to identically match another.

Then, going outward from the specificity of playlists and mixes, you have entire albums themselves. By virtue of the fact that once an album is pressed and released on the market and the date of such is fixed in history, that album is automatically surrounded by, and associated with, arbitrary benchmarks in time. (e.g. what season, month, nearby holiday is may be) Radio stations often cash in on these inevitabilities, figuratively speaking, with segments like “Top (insert number here) of (insert year here.)” So arbitrary dates, minus personal backstories play a role in musical association as well.

Now what if you brought those two ideas together? In that case you would probably end up with a situation like mine. Herein lies another way I think I”m probably just a little less conventional of a music enthusiast. When I buy a new album, and it wouldn’t matter if the album was digital or physical, whatever month or season or year of my life it is when I take that album and put it on its inaugural play becomes fixed on that album. It’s like an album is essentially “blank” for me after I buy it but once it’s been played through, I always first associate that first play with the circumstances of my life. Now, what I said just before about mix tapes and release years was to point out how those two examples of forming associations are completely opposite one another. The first is a voluntary creation, made up of things that remind you or events or people you want to remember and the second is a creation of unavoidable compulsion simply from parallel chronological referencing but not necessarily coupled with personal preference. With me though, it’s like I can’t separate the two ideas. CDs become connected to the time of first exposure and their concurrent personal experiences. You might just call it a good memory, which I’ll admit is probably a good portion of the reasoning. Yet just as how you can’t disconnect Britney Spears’ breakout studio album, “Baby One More Time…” from the year 1999, I can’t just remember events in my life for the good from the bad. Analogy? Big and common example of an event linked with various albums that tends never to go away: The time of your first breakup. This can be why it’s hard, even years later, for people to hear songs off of said album and they may just ban it from their listening library temporarily or even forever to just avoid the connection. Exes and such are particularly emotional topics. There’s a reason it sticks out in our minds.

What if though, when you went to pick up a CD and throw it on, or tap an album on your portable device, you weren’t asking yourself “Do I feel like listening to hard rock right now?,” but rather, “Do I feel like thinking about spring semester, junior year of college, sitting in so-and-so’s car, driving out to the park on a Saturday afternoon?”

If you’re wondering whether I just made up that long second thought or not, I didn’t. It’s something that goes through my mind every time I pick up Saves the Day‘s “Sound the Alarm.” This is just one example from every CD I own. The reason I point it out above other examples is that reading it as an outsider, I’m sure you don’t see anything very remarkable in what I gave as a description and I wanted to make a point of showing that despite it’s emotionally mediocre level of importance, I seem to carry it with me regardless. There is no ex-boyfriend, no tearful graduation, not reckless summer road trip, just a single point in time where one of my friends put the album on in her car.

Anyone else ever experience this degree of almost inevitable nostalgia? I’m just wondering if it’s unique to me or if perhaps other extreme music addicts out there so intricately know their own collections that instead of always referring to a selection by genre they see it for it’s permanently first playback? I see my CD stack as layers of my life –like an audio scrapbook and that means everything is there: the good, the band, the vital and the mundane.

Of course, to not leave you on a mind twisting inquiry, I will point out one more example of an album and how I’ll always remember it.

A few years ago, for my birthday, a very dear friend of mind shared some quirky and entertaining covers all put together by the chamber orchestra, Kremerata Baltica. In 2003, the group released an album that included 11 tracks that are all variations on the popular song, “Happy Birthday.” Covers touched on the styles of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven to name a few. Well as you can guess, though every birthday is special, these short and often humorous variations belong that one year alone in my ever growing library of audio memories.

This doesn’t mean though, that I can’t try to make an exception. 😉

In honor of my first year with all of you readers, I would also like to share these celebratory covers.
May the next year of writing be full of great things. New lessons, positive changes, jaw-dropping songs and much widespread enthusiast discussion!

Kremerata Baltica – “Happy Birthday Variations”

Leave a Reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS