Music: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Sound.
June 2015 was the moment I fell in love.
It was mid afternoon, the Tennessee heat had scorched my back and the crowd of twelve thousand was deafening.
My Camelbak was almost dry as I realized the surge of heat was getting to me. Anticipation set in as the DJ approached his stand, all eyes trained on him. He was in control of so many individuals. With each beat and synth, the young artist was able to command a crowd of people to contagiously jive. Each person flowed individually, but, together, the crowd acted as a sea of bleeding hearts with emotions running free. The act was surreal. I would never see these people again, but I felt connected to each one. All of us were there at Bonnaroo for one thing: to enjoy ourselves and appreciate music.
The track titled, “Loud Places” was next on the DJ’s set. The DJ was relatively unknown artist, Jamie XX, only recognizable with his other contributors, Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim, and Baria Qureshi, forming the electronic super group, The XX. The aforementioned track is a bittersweet and trance-filled journey through the mind of a saddened lover who has been left for someone “better”.
The ending prophesizes a self-respected decision to not return to her lover, but only looking forward to a future without him when Romy Croft hauntingly and softqly speaks, “You’re in ecstasy without me. When you come down, I won’t be around.” Taking a sample from jazz drummer Idris Muhammad’s “Could Heaven Ever Be Like This”, “Loud Places” elevates itself from UK garage electronic music to an experience.
When the track began to seep out of the surrounding speakers, there was a moment of complete serenity. Time slowed to a halt, and for an instance I was treated with feeling as if I was the only person in front of that stage. I closed my eyes and let the trance flow through my soul. Realization soon sunk in that we weren’t there to enjoy ourselves and appreciate music, but we were there to appreciate ourselves through the music we enjoy.
It was a moment of clarity. It was a moment of beauty. It was a moment of love.
The type of love I refer to is not dissimilar to that of another person. I connected to this song the way someone would find his or her soul mate on any given night. The almost xylophone-like synth rings and the melodious vocals brought out a passion living deep inside me that I have only ever scratched the surface of. Maybe it was the weirdly deep connection to the crowd or the haze of marijuana in the air across the festival, but one thing rang true: that was the moment I fell in love with music.
Music has always been held in high regard in my life. Whether it was my mother whose mental and physical exhaustion never struck down her need to introduce me to the likes of ABBA and Elton John or listening to American Idiot in its entirety on my Walkman, there have been moments in my life that have been attached to certain tracks. It wasn’t until my unbridled moment of focus in front of that stage that I realized something truly profound: the music I listen to is a reflection of self: emotion, spirit, motivation, and piece of mind. Unconsciously, I piece together a soundtrack for my life. Such a soundtrack allows my personality free through tracks ranging from the trippy melodies of underrated bassist, Thundercat, to the “fuck the world” style of hip-hop from duo Killer Mike and El-P, who form Run the Jewels.
As I define my music, my music defines me.
Rarely do I venture anywhere without my broadly expansive library as to never miss a defining moment that changes my perspective on life, love, the people around me, or myself. With a perspective change accompanies a change in tune. My recent heartbreak of a long-term relationship was bandaged by the soulful and raspy vocals of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. The recently formed band’s sound reminisces the soul and style of Otis Redding with a hint of folk thrown in for a combination that defines a talented group.
Their track, “Trying So Hard Not To Know”, from their self-titled debut album, sees Nathaniel evaluate a relationship with a woman who does not know exactly how to fix herself but tries to fix him. Even though it’s wholly unhealthy, he starts to love this woman for not giving a damn about what anybody says. Realizing this, he spins into self-criticism and accepts his love for her as a lie.
The tune then turns eerily depressed despite the southern, upbeat nature when he shouts, “You never stand up long enough to pull it together. Well who gives a damn and very few can when they’re trying so hard not to know.” It’s a lonely realization that there are more than a few women he has encountered in his life who take and take but never give. The band crafted a southern dive bar tune with a set of lyrics that truly helped myself realize the nature of the relationship I had with an individual whom I loved for over a year.
When I first listened to this song, it was rotating through my “Discover Weekly” playlist on Spotify. Through tears and cigarettes, I was drawn to this sound. I had never heard these guys before, yet this song clicked. It wasn’t until days later that I realized, while reeling about what I did to warrant such a tragedy, what message the band was attempting to relay to me. What a coincidence, no?
Sunny days are accented with the gloriously harmonic, electronic sounds of Porter Robinson. Drinking with friends accompanies the lyrics and beats of brilliant hip hop moguls, Ghostface Killa, MF Doom, and Madlib. Moments of pure thought sit well with the lullaby-like vocals mixed over the trap beats from the electronic indie group, Purity Ring.
There is a sound for every waking moment, and my life never skips a beat.