mix tape

Bloged in life, music, nostalgia by rod Friday January 19, 2007

On Sunday evening, while delivering the kids to their respective small group locations, I heard a piece on All Things Considered about Rob Sheffield’s new book, Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time. When I’d finished my taxi driving, I drove to Barnes and Noble to buy it, but alas, they had just closed. Last night, after gym time, I drove Allison over there for a cup of joe, and to grab the book.
In only half a chapter, my processor has retrieved a couple decades of memories, emotions, and meanings and placed them immediately accessible into my RAM. I read the few pages upon crawling into bed last night just as my eyes began to cross and my lids weighed down and my mind morphed into the other world. No doubt, I carried the thoughts with me where they would play all night, because so far this morning, amidst fielding last minute add/drop deadline advising tasks, I am completely consumed with thoughts triggered by those pages.

Music. There is no more powerful earthly force. There are people in whose lives music plays no role whatever. I’ve always considered these people weaklings.

In my life, I see two distinct roles music has played. It has shaped me, and it has been my means of expressing my shape. Maybe I shouldn’t say distinct roles, because at some point one realizes that his shape will be seen. And down deep, music doesn’t define me, it is merely the language that expresses my definition. At the very least, music has influenced what I think about, and how I think about it, and it has become the truest expression of my thoughts.
When one looks back, it is seemingly easy to sum up the big influencers of his life. They are usually the things that still play. But from time to time, we are made to realize the plethora of smaller bits that have profoundly played through the years. If you were known by a snapshot, what would the soundtrack be? This is not a tough question to answer for me, because there exist boxes of extant soundtracks from various points in my life. Each is inseparably tethered to places, experiences, and people.
There are bands ands albums to which I’ve listened consistently for years. They’ve influenced me profoundly. But there are others that I listened to non-stop for shorter periods of time. This has always been my modus operandi. Over time, these temporal obsessions are forgotten, but their influence lives on. Often the context, environment, and company they played into are also forgotten. But all can be regained, relived with a couple of bars from one of those tunes. One finds that without thinking, he still knows all the words, all the riffs, and still expects it to be followed by the next song on his mix tape. It would be a mistake to think that the impact of those tunes was any less than that of the longer run music. In fact, there is no doubt that the short obsession music influenced the way I experienced the long haul music.

One doesn’t always get to choose what connections music will serve in the future. Songs that meant little, were not liked, or even despised, will later emerge as the carriers of memories that are sweet and fragrant and nostalgic and warming. Songs that were important favorites and deeply meaningful can someday connect themselves to painful experiences or memories and become painful themselves.

For several years after graduation and marriage, my college roommate and I exchanged mix tapes by mail as a way of remaining engrained in one another’s lives. We made “remember this?” mix tapes and “you’ve got hear this” mix tapes. It was always a thrill to get those in the mail, and to listen to the tunes as I recorded his onto the tapes.

These days, I walk around with my entire music collection contained in a pocket-sized rectangle. It plugs into my home stereo, my car stereo, my computer and my ears. It will even create mixes for me that will cause me to listen to tunes I haven’t heard in years. But back in the day, in order to listen to music in any place other than the house, I had to insert a cassette, and create ride music, or workout music, or greasemonkey music, to take with me. And it would play over and over until it was burned into my being. Some songs appeared on every tape, some only in the company of others, but each collection had mood and meaning. Each spoke to who I was, who I was becoming, or who I wanted to be.

Now, I am, and I am still becoming, in the same way I was back then when I was becoming what I am now. I wonder what mix of expressions and melodies and rhythms will be the soundtrack in the years to become.

Soundtrack mix for the blogging of this blurb:

Kansas – “Questions of my Childhood”
The Decemberists – “The Island”
Roland Dyens – “Libra Sonatine – India”
Rush – “La Villa Strangiato”

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mix tape

Bloged in life, music, nostalgia by rod Friday January 19, 2007

On Sunday evening, while delivering the kids to their respective small group locations, I heard a piece on All Things Considered about Rob Sheffield’s new book, Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time. When I’d finished my taxi driving, I drove to Barnes and Noble to buy it, but alas, they had just closed. Last night, after gym time, I drove Allison over there for a cup of joe, and to grab the book.
In only half a chapter, my processor has retrieved a couple decades of memories, emotions, and meanings and placed them immediately accessible into my RAM. I read the few pages upon crawling into bed last night just as my eyes began to cross and my lids weighed down and my mind morphed into the other world. No doubt, I carried the thoughts with me where they would play all night, because so far this morning, amidst fielding last minute add/drop deadline advising tasks, I am completely consumed with thoughts triggered by those pages.

Music. There is no more powerful earthly force. There are people in whose lives music plays no role whatever. I’ve always considered these people weaklings.

In my life, I see two distinct roles music has played. It has shaped me, and it has been my means of expressing my shape. Maybe I shouldn’t say distinct roles, because at some point one realizes that his shape will be seen. And down deep, music doesn’t define me, it is merely the language that expresses my definition. At the very least, music has influenced what I think about, and how I think about it, and it has become the truest expression of my thoughts.
When one looks back, it is seemingly easy to sum up the big influencers of his life. They are usually the things that still play. But from time to time, we are made to realize the plethora of smaller bits that have profoundly played through the years. If you were known by a snapshot, what would the soundtrack be? This is not a tough question to answer for me, because there exist boxes of extant soundtracks from various points in my life. Each is inseparably tethered to places, experiences, and people.
There are bands ands albums to which I’ve listened consistently for years. They’ve influenced me profoundly. But there are others that I listened to non-stop for shorter periods of time. This has always been my modus operandi. Over time, these temporal obsessions are forgotten, but their influence lives on. Often the context, environment, and company they played into are also forgotten. But all can be regained, relived with a couple of bars from one of those tunes. One finds that without thinking, he still knows all the words, all the riffs, and still expects it to be followed by the next song on his mix tape. It would be a mistake to think that the impact of those tunes was any less than that of the longer run music. In fact, there is no doubt that the short obsession music influenced the way I experienced the long haul music.

One doesn’t always get to choose what connections music will serve in the future. Songs that meant little, were not liked, or even despised, will later emerge as the carriers of memories that are sweet and fragrant and nostalgic and warming. Songs that were important favorites and deeply meaningful can someday connect themselves to painful experiences or memories and become painful themselves.

For several years after graduation and marriage, my college roommate and I exchanged mix tapes by mail as a way of remaining engrained in one another’s lives. We made “remember this?” mix tapes and “you’ve got hear this” mix tapes. It was always a thrill to get those in the mail, and to listen to the tunes as I recorded his onto the tapes.

These days, I walk around with my entire music collection contained in a pocket-sized rectangle. It plugs into my home stereo, my car stereo, my computer and my ears. It will even create mixes for me that will cause me to listen to tunes I haven’t heard in years. But back in the day, in order to listen to music in any place other than the house, I had to insert a cassette, and create ride music, or workout music, or greasemonkey music, to take with me. And it would play over and over until it was burned into my being. Some songs appeared on every tape, some only in the company of others, but each collection had mood and meaning. Each spoke to who I was, who I was becoming, or who I wanted to be.

Now, I am, and I am still becoming, in the same way I was back then when I was becoming what I am now. I wonder what mix of expressions and melodies and rhythms will be the soundtrack in the years to become.

Soundtrack mix for the blogging of this blurb:

Kansas – “Questions of my Childhood”
The Decemberists – “The Island”
Roland Dyens – “Libra Sonatine – India”
Rush – “La Villa Strangiato”

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what are the chances of that?

Bloged in life, music, nostalgia, parenting by rod Sunday October 15, 2006

Friday night, in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, after I’d cruised a bit and walked off the kinks in my knees and back accumulated between Albuquerque and Dallas, I sat down at the gate beside Dave, and checked my email. At the top of the page was a message reminding me that Randy Stonehill was going to be doing a concert Saturday night at the Pavilion Coffee Shop. I remembered this and was planning on going and asking Molly to go with me. I mentioned it to Dave, over the din of the bustling airport, “HEY, DAVE, RANDY STONEHILL IS PLAYING IN COLUMBIA TOMORROW NIGHT.” To which Dave replied, “Cool, is he still 30?”.
What I didn’t realize is that Randy Stonehill was within earshot of me. In fact, I didn’t see him until we got to baggage claim in Columbia. I thought it was pretty cool that we were in the airport at the same time, but it didn’t occur to me until he told me that we’d actually flown together from Dallas. I asked him if he’d heard me talking about him in Dallas and he said no, but his ears were itching.
I’ve had lots of brushes with greatness over the years, in elevators, on stage, the golf course, Waffle House. I’ve played in the band with musical greats, opened for others, had a hero of mine accompany me on piano, but this was a the first for catching the same connecting flight from two separate cities and then waiting for our bags together.
Molly and I made it to the concert. She already thinks I’m famous, so she wasn’t at all surprised that Randy Stonehill knew my name when we first talked to him Saturday night. “Dad, it’s really cool that all these people know who you are.” I told her that he only knew me because I met him last night, but that didn’t seem to matter to her.
We both really enjoyed the concert, Molly even texted Allison in the middle: “This guy is GREAT!!!” Her favorite tunes were “Who will save the Children?” and “Rachel Delevoryas”. Mine too, I think.
A great time was had by all.

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yellow buses and chevy trucks

Bloged in family, life, nostalgia by rod Thursday July 20, 2006

Today, while stopped at a signal light in an intersection, heading east, I saw my Uncle Roy, waiting for the light to change so that he could continue North. He was not on my list of people I expected to see today. Total surprise. His hair was same as the last time I saw him, his window rolled down and arm rested on the door with elbow out. He was driving a slate gray, Uncle-Roy-vintage Chevy pick-up truck, as he always did.
I sat staring at him across the road until the light turned green, and he crossed in front of me and went on his way. It’s been 7 years since I’ve seen him and I wanted to take it in. I stared back in time, I relived moments and experiences and events. I laughed at silly funnies, and quick wit.
I watched his license plate drive around the bend and lost sight of him, but I drove on down the road thankful to have caught a glimpse.

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posthumous pearls

Bloged in music, nostalgia by rod Wednesday May 17, 2006

During Franz Schubert’s short life, around 100 of his pieces were published. To me, this seems like an inordinate catalog for a 31 year-old. But during the next 50 years after his death, his works were published steadily. Occasionally, a long buried piece will still be found. One Viennese music critic wrote in 1862 that “it is as though he continued to work invisibly. One can hardly keep up with him.”
No doubt, those responsible for bringing to light his long hidden catalog, were delighted to continue to find that he was more prolific than anyone imagined. I would imagine that his fans, Brahms, Mendellsohn, Liszt, and others who had digested, and been nourished by Schubert’s works were ecstatic to consistently unearth, publish and perform previously unheard music.
What a treat to find that you’ve been provided for after a musician is gone. Though the body of work left by the musician would no doubt be sufficient for a lifetime of enjoyment and appreciation, to be provided with previously unknown creativity keeps it all alive for much longer a period of time.
Yesterday, Personal Files was released. It contains 49 songs from Johnny Cash never before heard. These were found in his home studio by his son, John Carter. I was serenaded during all my finals week preparations yesterday by guitar and voice renditions of “Farther Along”, “Drink to me Only with Thine Eyes,” “Sanctified”, (complete justify-cation)and 47 other old living room covers and originals that have never been heard before. Many of the recordings include him telling the story of where the song came from, who he was with when it was written, etc. All were recorded between 1973 and 1980.
These days with record labels seeking no investment-high return projects, after an artist is gone, we can expect a barrage of releases of re-compilations, best ofs, the essentials, re-masters, b sides, remixes, cast-off tracks of familiar hits, but 49 spanking new stuffs? Unheard of. And recorded in his cleaned up prime with a new lease on life. It is a bright day for life-long, die-hard Johnny Cash fans.
So I’d suggest for you. Load up your iPod, grab a Fanta® and a cane pole, find an old abandoned depot or warehouse or secluded river bank, and take a couple hours to hear the product of a man singing from his soul. Have your own soul ministered to in the process.

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priorities

Bloged in family, life, nostalgia by rod Thursday April 14, 2005

I had to have Jack to the school at 6:30 this morning to get on the bus bound for Atlanta and his District Honors Orchestra field trip/concert. They’ll return around midnight on Saturday night. As we lugged his gear across the wet parking lot in the dark morning rain, I asked him what about the trip excited him. He said, “we’re going to Six Flags.” I looked up at the busses as he said, “six flags”, and had a flashback. I told him that I’d been to the very same Six Flags Over Georgia, on a very similar trip all these many years ago. “What did you do at Six Flags?” I rented a boat and took two pretty girls out on a lake. We had an hour, so I rowed us out 30 minutes and turned the boat around. As it turned out, I wasn’t as manly as I thought I was - not even in a boat with two pretty girls - and so the rowing was somewhat more difficult on the return trip. I made the three of us late getting back. Jack smiled at my story so I added, “so the moral of this story is: Two pretty girls in a boat is way more important than what you’re supposed to be doing.” He laughed, but someday he’ll see that I’m not joking. Mostly. I don’t remember what I made us late for that day, or for that matter, anything else about the trip. I do remember rowing that boat though, chugging backward and facing my passengers.
A few years later, I pulled the same thing again. I took Allison on the subway to Staten Island. We were very late getting back to where we were supposed to be. But once again, all these years later, I don’t remember where we were supposed to be or why. I remember every minute of that train ride beneath Manhattan with the love of my life.
I know that in any given moment, what you desire is likely not to seem like the responsible thing to do. Buckle up. Be responsible. Be dependable. But the truth is, most of those “given moments” are just that, “given moments. They pass. No one will ever think of them again. But if you’re blessed, at the end of all those given moments strung back to back, the pretty girl will still be there. And as you look back through those given moments, the definitions of responsibility and dependability have somewhat morphed. What’s important now? ‘twould be a happy man who could say the same thing at both ends of his life. Don’t you think?

recuerdos

Bloged in life, love and marriage, nostalgia by rod Wednesday February 16, 2005

As you look back over the years, do you have memories engraved indelibly on your mind that consist of so much more than a mentally visualized still-life snapshot? Memories that consist of smells, sounds, temperature, emotions that aren’t remembered, but still felt as strongly as ever?
Do you remember with each of those memories, being in the moment, or the next day, thinking, “That is a moment I will never forget”? Gathering around you all those smells, sounds, temps, and emotions so that they would stay with you forever?
I’ll bet everyone has those memories, but few of them could have been anticipated. In any given wonder-moment, we bask, we absorb, we gather, we dream of reliving it for years; but often it is a different moment entirely that stays with us and causes us joy years down the road, and these often take us by surprise.
But this should be of no surprise. Art is the same way. We think we know now what will last, what will stand the test of time, but we can’t possibly know how it will play against what is to come. In this way, we can’t even know in ourselves, what memories will mean for us down the road. At the least, we experience a moment with our current circumstances, emotions, situations, etc. At most, we experience a moment based on what we’ve known so far. Gee, that’s the best I’ve experienced in my whole life. But we can’t know what experiences are to come and where any given moment will fall in the scheme of importance in shaping who we are years from now.
On the other hand, there are memories of a type that are born of other memories. Categorical, maybe. We feel that a moment will last because it brings to mind other memories that we have. Often these moments do last because they get added to memories in a particular category. Sometimes, deeply lasting impressions are made when two or more of our categories converge. I have some very important memories of musical experiences. The most important of these memories are the ones I shared with Allison, who has a category of her own in experiential recesses of my mind. So certain music can trigger specific memories with her, certain memories can bring to mind specific music. Both bring back atmosphere and emotion. We both have memories of hearing Harry James, and James Taylor, in concert while in college. The Pittsburgh Symphony at Heinz Hall centered an evening that no other subsequent Pittsburgh Symphony concerts could equal except that they bring to mind the memories of that first one. I have musical memories without Allison, but they are only half memories without the support of the categorical context.
Last night, we made a memory together, and I am sure that this one can be manufactured and preserved if only (and maybe preferably) as a booster memory for some older ones that needed some reminiscing about now. We spent two hours last night sitting and watching and listening, from 20 feet, to whom I believe to be the coolest musician of the century, Dave Brubeck. At 84 years old, he adds carefree joy and experienced wit to his coolness. He speaks to the piano and causes it to sing back whatever his ear asks for, drawing from the hidden recesses of his improvisations, quotes and manipulations of every composer imaginable, nodding to his influences, manifesting his memories, adding himself to a categorical memory sequence and drawing from our minds every magical memory that we ever experienced. How is it that you can check off one guy on your “old geezer concert tour”, and feel like you’ve experienced an entire generation of performers?
Allison, thank you for experiencing Brubeck with me. Please engrave “Take Five” on your aural memory, never forget that blue-bird-flute-flutter on “Over the Rainbow”, or the excruciatingly slow, longingly bent note on “Stormy Weather” in the Harold Arlen birthday tribute. I hope the smells of coffee, realm, and the sound of a stormy sax improvisation, all combine to create an entirely new memory that is only yours and mine.
Didn’t that flute flutter sound strangely like a butterfly emerging?
That’s where you’ll find me.

nostalgic nudge

Bloged in life, nostalgia, parenting by rod Wednesday January 26, 2005

Pause - rewind - replay
Inkslinger blogged this morning about trips to school with his dad and the music that played in the tape player.
I love that Led Zepelin II stayed in the tape player forever. I have a habit of leaving things in the CD player in my truck forever too. The kids are always asking, “dad, can we please change the CD?” But I think, you don’t go around painting the walls of the living room every day do you? Or swapping out the pictures on the wall. Nothing stays in the home stereo for very long, but the truck, that’s a different story. There, I need a solid, secure backdrop for the journey that is life. A familiar song for uncertainty of my going out and coming in.
Doesn’t everyone need their musical wallpaper? When we were in high school, each of us could be known by the old standby in the tape player. In Dwayne’s red, 1968 Mustang, we listened to Journey every single day to and from track practice. In Travis’ Honda Civic, it was “Pyromania”, and sometimes “Panorama”. (I just want to be your…) and in my green pinto, “Permanent Waves” (you don’t dare play “Pyromania” in a Ford Pinto).
From one day to the next, we may have a new zit, a new girlfriend, or even be an inch taller. Life changes overnight when you’re 17, some things appear to be consistent, but you’re really not sure yet what is trustworthy and what isn’t. Enter the eternally looping 8-track. Or the auto-reverse cassette. There is a sure thing. “Photograph” blaring at ear-numbing volumes, interacting with end-of-the-schoolday restlessness, adrenalin, hormones, and smelly track shoes.
And thus, for good and bad, Steve Perry, Def Leppard, Ric Ocasek, and Neil Peart put their nearly indelible stamp on your memories and in some cases, formation.
On the way back from Austin, I was listening to “Moving Pictures”, and was blown away by how much I’ve been influenced by Neil Peart over the years. It is not so much that I’ve been swayed by anything he had to say, but that I’ve been caused to think about things that I never would have thought of as a 17 year-old. Neil Peart caused me to observe and assess the behaviors, thought processes, and world views of those around me and to think for myself rather than unquestioningly, blindly follow the crowd.
So sorry kids, if you have to listen to the same old thing day after day in the Explorer. For me, there are layers of advantages. I picked it for you. It speaks to me. And some day, miles down the road, while that eternal CD is still is still is stil is still looping in your brain, the whole experience will be mixed up together; the dad, the music, the squeaky clutch pedal - an amalgam of memory that makes up a part of who you are.
Listen to my songs and know who I am. See where I’ve been and who I’ve become. Listen with me as I keep on becoming.
Years from now, something will occur to you from some song we shared, and you’ll say, “hmmmm… I hadn’t realized that about dad.”

renew my strength

Bloged in life, music, nostalgia by rod Thursday September 16, 2004

There are many reasons that one might find himself facing more than he might be able to accomplish. Of course the likely question is, “haven’t you learned how to say no?” In fact, there are items on the agenda that could have been refused. But most are things about which there is no choice.
Ironically, the activities and responsibilities to which he could have said no, are precisely the things that he wishes to do. Tent making is a necessity. It is necessary to provide the means by which the wishes can be accomplished. But by providing the means for the wishes, one has depleted the time needed for them.
Because the extra-vocational is the crux of the current calling, it must be done anyway. And so while others are sleeping, or eating, watching survivor or playing golf, he is planning, preparing, praying, practicing, and palpitating. Listening to the clock ding, sneaking glances at the moon, having a pity party.
I’m tired.

keep silent and wait on the word of the Lord

a year later

Bloged in life, music, nostalgia by rod Sunday September 12, 2004

My parents came down yesterday evening. They left this afternoon to drive back home. Seven hours both ways for a few hours’ visit. Mom had to be back to sing tomorrow morning. Now you see where I get it, when you know its time to go do something, you go do it. You can’t sit around and worry that you don’t have time, or that you have to hurry back.
They brought all kinds of goodies with them, dad brought me a table saw, and mom brought a box of memorabilia, and lots of treasures from the house. Last night after dinner, we were in the living room talking about stuff from years ago and I was thinking about that Johnny Cash concert that set me upon my course. I asked mom if there was any extant evidence from that concert. “Yeah,” she said, “ticket stubs. They’re in that box of stuff I brought.” We sat in the middle of the floor and looked at everything in the box together, remembering, until we found the stubs and I got bogged down on them. Mom said that she guessed that’s all she needed to bring. Of course not, but this was a very important one to me.
Mom and I have always seemed to have some sort of synchronicity thing going, or at least she has with me. When I was in college, she would call at the exact times she needed to call. I know she was praying at times when she didn’t call. I broke my collar bone in a football game and she called within hours because “she felt like there might be something wrong.”
She also has a knack for unknowingly preparing for things that will be needed in the future. With the ticket stubs in hand, I had to blog some more about the old Johnny Cash experience, and thought I’d link you back to past blurbs I’ve made. So I looked them up and realized that one was a comment link to Sungrown Maduro’s Johnny Cash tribute, that has long since disappeared from the comments. Then I remembered that mom had printed that comment and placed it in a picture she had given me of the very event that I talked about in the comment. So I opened the back of the frame and pulled out the printout. I’ve posted it here for you to read. You’ll notice from the stubs, that in that post, my memory was off by a year.
So anyway, magical musical moments, tend to bring back older magical musical moments, and so I’m sitting here exactly a year to the hour after Johnny Cash died, listening to “the man comes around”, and remembering everything associated with it. I remember the mind snapshot of the concert. I remember listening to Live at San Quentin and At Folsom Prison on my grandmother’s console stereo. I used to worry about the folks he sang about. I still do.
When my kids were very little they responded to Tracy Chapman’s music. I was baffled by that. They had no reference for anything she was singing about. One day Allison and I were talking about it and we realized that even in innocence, they responded to her passion and the reality in her music. That is what I was drawn to in Johnny Cash at such a young age. Advocates for the everyman. Artist’s who get out of themselves and feel for those around them. Who are real enough to know the experience and speak sympathy and encouragement.
So thank you for hanging with me to the end of this long rambling free association down memory lane on the one year anniversary of Johnny Cash’s deliverance. May his influence live on in the music of folks like Tracy Chapman, Lauryn Hill, John Prine, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, … and me(?)

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