Tuesday, October 2, 2012

what I need is music

the view from the cheap seats through my aging iPhone 4
As you probably already know, we live in Los Angeles, and our neighborhood in particular is both steeped in old film history and on the cutting edge of new movie-making.  King Kong, Gone With The Wind, and The Wizard of Oz were all filmed just off of our little main street, now in the shadow of Sony Pictures Studios, one of the five or six major studio lots in LA and the site of the former MGM Studios.

All the same, our neighborhood is also a little bit quieter than what you might expect, and daily life is the usual:  get the girls to school, clean the house, get groceries, pick up the girls, do homework, eat, baths, bed.  We take the girls to swim lessons on the weekends, we visit with friends, maybe go to church, maybe go to the park, maybe sleep in and do the Sunday crossword puzzle.

Any time we get out to do something quintessentially LA, such as going to the Hollywood Bowl this past Sunday night,  it feels like rubbing your eyes and blinking into the sun after a long nap.  A long, exhausting nap.

And I dreaded the weekend Hollywood traffic, and I dreaded the stacked parking, and I dreaded sitting outside on a hot summer-that-just-won't-quit evening.  Because sometimes I'm a moron.  Because I spend too much time doing laundry and getting groceries and running errands, and I forget what it is to get out.  I forget that Hollywood traffic isn't terrible when you're not in Hollywood every day anymore, because that way there's always something different to look at, such as the new pretty, vibrant, flower-covered bus stop benches, or the latest raw and graphic street art memes.  I forget that Jimmy has uncanny parking mojo, and can magically score a first-in-line spot even in stacked parking at a nearly sold-out show.  I forget that the Bowl is amazing, and beautiful, and that the new acoustics allow those of us sitting in the cheap seats to hear absolutely everything.  I forget what it's like to see live music with a crowd, sitting next to the boy I like, warm breezes rolling off the Hollywood Hills and onto our cheeks, a glass in each of our hands and a bottle of chilled white wine between us, the orange Harvest Moon rising right before our eyes.

I forget how complicated Joanna Newsom's music is, with long, curious, storytelling lyrics, sophisticated accompaniments, and an unabashed, nearly-inaccessible voice drawing you into a completely accessible, completely human experience.

I forget how much I love Wilco and that old Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (one of my desert island top fives) and how electrifying it can be to hear them perform almost every track live.  I forget what it's like to see an excellent and still evolving band bring their very best to an extraordinary venue packed full of happy, riveted fans, a show so good that it would be unimaginable to end it with anything less than two encores of three or four songs apiece.

I forget what it's like to be focused on good music and nothing else - not reading, not writing, not doing dishes or picking up toys or paying bills.  Not even driving the car.  Just focused on the music.

When I was in high school, my favorite escape was my bedroom floor where I would lie on my back in the lamplight and listen to music for hours at a time.  I would be so absorbed in every measure of whatever it was I needed that day, maybe it was R.E.M.'s Automatic For The People or U2's Achtung Baby,  maybe it was Over the Rhine's Eve or maybe Glenn Gould's Brahms Intermezzos, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Sundays, The Violent Femmes, that first Sarah Mclachlan album... and I wanted to live in those songs, those songs where I could breathe and think and rest and dream and process and wonder and forget and remember who I was and who I wanted to be.

Today, I don't make the time for music, not like that.  I multitask my music now, always making it background noise to some other thing.  Life is too busy.  And I worry that if I turn up the volume and lay on the floor that I'll fall asleep and wake up too late for school pickups, rushing out the door with bleary eyes and dried cheerios in my hair.

Maybe it's time to revisit that assumption.

But what we need is music and the music is inside of us and I look at you and know that I want my life to be a work of art.  
- Linford Detweiler

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