Music, Relationship, Travel

#3. Dark chords | Memoirs | Fête de la Musique

“Asleep by the Smiths
Vapour Trail by Ride
Scarborough Fair by Simon & Garfunkel
A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum
Dear Prudence by the Beatles
Gypsy by Suzanne Vega
Nights in White Satin by the Moody Blues
Daydream by Smashing Pumpkins
Dusk by Genesis (before Phil Collins was even in the band!)
MLK by U2
Blackbird by the Beatles
Landslide by Fleetwood Mac
Asleep by the Smiths (again!)

-Charlie’s mixtape”

Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

When I was a kid, somewhere I came across this rather interesting news-story. It was 1965 and The Sound of Music had just released across theatres. One peevish theatre owner was however irked by the considerable length of the movie and he decided to chop off all the songs before the classic musical could be screened in his place! I am not sure whether his audience appreciated that, the report said nothing about it, but what concerned me then was to discover that of all things, how one can be so tightly closed to music!

Music obviously holds different value to different people. For most, music is a form of aesthetic pleasure, a means of relaxation and a way of communication. For some others, it’s an outburst of soul. I was never trained in music. But still it flows to me. It glues the surreal pieces of my memory and perceptions. In fact, one of the earliest memories I have of my childhood is my father singing ‘Shanto noditi pote aka chobiti’, a popular Bengali song of his time as a lullaby to pacify me. The pensieve has no imagery. All that has remained is my consciousness of his music. I associate him with this particular recollection. And since we evaluate our experiences of a person through the memoirs we shared, music holds a key to the associations that gets established. The places we go, the people we meet.

“I can tell Bob Dylan in an instant,” she said.“Because his harmonica’s worse than Stevie Wonder?” She laughed again. Nice to know I could still make someone laugh. “No, I really like his voice,” she said. “It’s like a kid standing at the window watching the rain.”
After all the volumes that have been written about Dylan, I had yet to come across such a perfect description. She blushed when I told her that.

– Haruki Murakami, Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the world

My first travel abroad was a two month visit to the island of Taiwan as an exchange student. For the initial few days, I felt perplexed being in a country where hardly anyone spoke English out of the university. Communication was a mess. A student from Mainland China was working in the same lab as mine. Realizing my situation and coming to know of my enthusiasm to explore local cuisine, she started taking me for strolls in the night markets of the city. And on one such night, as I was  savouring some exquisite spring onion pancakes and pork dumplings, the place started playing Phil Collins’s Another Day in Paradise. It felt home instantly!

Another such incident comes to my mind. Last year, I had been to Indiana for a similar summer research program. Since my sibling used to live down North Carolina, I visited her in a weekend. We planned a day trip to Wilmington, a beach town on Atlantic which was a few hours drive away. An African-american acquaintance of my  sister was driving the car. She started playing some jazz pieces by Boney James. Till then, I wasn’t a great fan of jazz. But suddenly there was a version of ‘Auld lang syne’ that came along. I was blown away by the improvisations and the syncopation brought in to the classic Scottish folk melody. And then we gelled along; over jazz, blues and everything else! 🙂

Woodstock, 1969

I never felt so comfortable in the company of anyone, as I did in the conversations I shared with my music. After high school, I left home for university. I had to part with my friends and family, and the cozy, familiar world fell apart. As I started reshaping my identity and tried calibrating myself with the heterogeneous, professional world around, I quickly realized that there is a difference between being social and being able to forge intimacy with someone. I gradually learnt being on my own and take care of myself. Some of those days, the world felt like crashing down around me. There were only a few things that helped me to pull myself together. Music stayed beside me as a faithful companion in those times. Even now and then, as I crouch myself in the darkest alleys of ‘mindville’, it still calms me like a doting father. 

Here’s to father’s day. Here’s to music!

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