Friday, August 29, 2008

Moved to Tears

When I was growing up, music was a huge part of my life. I played several instruments and considered pursuing performance as an occupation. Somehow I changed my adolescent mind and my major, but music remains a huge emotional outlet for me.

It's also an emotional inlet, in that listening to can trigger highly emotional reactions. Perversely, if I'm going through a stressful time, or need time with my thoughts, I can't listen to much music. I need the silence, to hear an idea rattling against the cage and give it some voice.

But there are several pieces of music that have - from my first listen - prompted tears, a joyful release that is incomparable. If it weren't for their incongruity, they'd make the ultimate playlist whenever I felt like I needed a good cry that would lift my spirits. There are others, but these are the ones that come to mind:
  1. The Flower Duet from Lakme: Whether it's a British Airways commercial or an angelic opera compilation, those high-note harmonies are the primary trigger.
  2. Ave Maria: Probably from my earliest recollections, at a regular mass I'd attended as a child; later, for weddings and, sadly, funerals.
  3. Another Train: By the Poozies. These women are doozies when it comes to harmony, with nary an instrument to keep them on pitch.
  4. Bohemian Rhapsody: The first time I heard this song, I turned the volume of my tinny little radio all the way up, drinking in every note, thrilling at the stylistic changes and operatic choral parts.
  5. Bridge Over Troubled Water: Like some cliche from an after-school special, over and over I played this Simon and Garfunkel song as a college freshman, when I felt weary, down and out, or just plain homesick.
  6. We Belong Together: Pat Benatar was a constant during the 80s, but it's that children's chorus, dammit, that gets me every time.
  7. Rilo Kiley's A Better Son/Daughter: A former coworker included this on a mix CD and while it triggered some tears on the first listen, it helped me stand tall as I left a job that I hated.
  8. Skateaway, by Dire Straits: It's the off-handed softness of this melody and how it just slips out of Mark Knopfler, who could probably pen a jingle for potato chips that would make me tear up, too.
  9. Breakfast in America by Supertramp: There's a tuba, or a trombone, that is just such a surprise, it gives me a little catch in my throat each time I hear it.
  10. They Say It's Spring, as warbled by Blossom Dearie: First discovered on the Target commercial a few years ago, each springtime since at the arrival of the first cherry blossom, I play it and tip my hat to this girlish-sounding jazz maven.


Kitty said...

ah, I love music, too. And I can understand your post. It's easy to protect oneself when you just cannot deal.

It's great you retain music as a part of your life. This post reminds me that I should go revisit some my old musical loves!

Spandrel Studios said...

Go for it, Kitty! Some music is so inextricably linked with specific memories... it's fun to think back to when you heard things and what you were doing.

For some reason, I've been ultra-nostalgic, lately... and a few of these tunes were definitely part of my personal soundtrack, back in the day.

Anonymous said...

My friend has a dream of having a party in which all guests bring their "top 3" songs of all time to share. The only trouble has been all potential guests narrowing their songs. (In fact, I think the supposed host has procrastinated on the concept due to the anxiety associated with narrowing down the options.) Throughout the years, we've realized that our personal soundtracks depend on the mood and the memories attached. So, if one were to have a party that requested "Top three songs of 1996," maybe I'd be able to come up with something. Top 3 songs of life? Can't happen. Depends on what I wake up thinking, what the weather's like, and what the birds are saying.

Sometimes I think another friend of mine makes the "mix tapes/cds" that are the soundtracks to my writing, but then I get bummed because the writing doesn't live up to its soundtrack. Thanks for sharing some of your soundtrack. It will probably phase into mine, so I share with you a recurring entry in mine: Overkill by Men at Work. (See if you can find acoustic version; it showed up on a Scrubs episode once.)

Liz S.

Spandrel Studios said...

Hey, Liz S., thanks for commenting. That version of Overkill by Men at Work is really something... Amazing how a different arrangement of a song I've heard probably a few thousand times can affect the tone or the message it conveys.

Your friend has an excellent idea for a party theme! But I agree, Top 3 Songs of Life is nearly impossible to pin down, and if music is a gauge (or a trigger?) for one's mood, by the time you RSVP for the party, the tunes will likely change, and change again by the time you set foot in the door... Least they would for me.

And actually, this list is less a soundtrack than it is songs that because something in the music itself brought me to tears - the associations came after the fact. Harmonies, especially, seem to have a direct conduit to my tear ducts, for some reason.