Weeds: Soundtrack of the Season
On a recent miserable day outside, I went walking/jogging on the track at New Ulm’s Vogel Fieldhouse (which is a great place). There my fellow travelers and I went around and around with “oldies” serenading us from the speakers.
The music took me back to times and places decades past. That is, I guess, what oldies are supposed to do. Oldies are on at a lot of places I go. Now and then a warm memory of young friendship or a school event comes to mind when I hear some song of yore. But then comes a song that make me cringe. Perhaps it’s recalling saying something stupid to a girl I had a crush on; sometimes it’s flashing back to something stupid I did.
There are lots of things I don’t understand. One of them is the attraction of oldies. It seems to indicate that a lot of people circumvented those coming-of-age years more adeptly than I did.
I’m happy to have survived the seventies, but I’m not sure why you would want to relive it musically. One time around with “We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun, but the hills that we climbed were just seasons out of time,” seems enough to me.
I don’t have oldies on any of the preset buttons on my car radio. Oh, occasionally I enjoy a Bruce Springsteen or Motown tune that drifts across my consciousness, proof that I’m not completely void of musical feeling.
It is undeniable that music can call forth memories. Music heightens feelings in such a way that a time and place get stuck in our head with a song. I’m not a neurologist, but clearly music goes to a part of the brain that words by themselves don’t. Connections hot-glued in our mind between a song and a moment remain in place fifty years on.
Music can hold power over us with lasting and deep impact. Certain songs cause us to smile widely, others, to tear up. Witness the faces of veterans as the National Anthem is played at a Memorial Day event or a family as Amazing Grace is played at a funeral service.
I think everyone is touched by music, at least a little bit. This ranges from heavy metal headbanging to soft instrumental elevator strains. It’s remarkable the wide spectrum of things people find pleasing.
When I was young, my folks had old time music on KNUJ exclusively. The kitchen and barn radios were set to the Polka Station of the Nation. I don’t think I knew there was other music. I remember later realizing those polkas and waltzes were oldies for my mom and dad, music that transported them back in time. Their earliest dates were barn dances; those old tunes were part of their romancing.
I have thought of music as a gift from a good and kind God. We can communicate most things we need with the grunts that evolved into words in the planet’s many languages. But somewhere back in mankind’s history we began using voice in melodic ways. Clapping hands and sticks and stones could sound out a beat.
I asked some friends, “Why is there music?” Lora pointed to the sounds of nature that surround us. Songbirds, the wind, rainfall, even our heartbeats: perhaps these prepare us for music.
Reaching further, for centuries dating back to antiquity, the notion of the Harmony of the Spheres was used to explain the universe. The spheres were the stars and planets, and creation could be perceived as a type of song with harmony and pitch. In Latin, this was Musica Universalis, the idea that music, mathematics, and astronomy are tied together. Plato said astronomy was for the eyes what music was for the ears.
I was thinking about music. I’ve always been jealous of people in movies. Movies have a score, music in the background as characters play out their story. I have thought I’d like to have a score setting the mood for my life, building to a crescendo during the exciting parts. Now that I have a phone with Pandora and Spotify, I have my score! Problem is, the script isn’t all that interesting. Music washing over me as I change sweeps on the field cultivator doesn’t make for a thrilling scene.
Baseball players get to choose “walk-up” songs. The home team plays these as the batter steps to the plate. The hope is that the energy-laced tune will provide a shot of adrenaline to the hitter. Recently I announced to some friends that I was going to use a “walk-in” song when I entered their house. I chose Viva la Vida by Coldplay. I had to quit that when my walk-in music raised the anticipation level to a height that I couldn’t live up to.
I mentioned saying stupid things to girls that I had a crush on. Well, one of those girls married me. Now I occasionally send her songs that express my feelings on her phone: romantic songs by Charlie Puth, Ed Sheeran, and, of course, Pitbull. When I get home, I am invariably met by an eye roll. It’s a look that says she is used to me after these 37 years. (Happy anniversary Pam!)
This time of year, Christmas music makes its annual appearance. No music associates itself with memories more so than “Silent Night,” “O Come all ye Faithful,” et al. These songs were there at our earliest Christmases. Joyful memories sometimes blend with melancholy. Certain of these remind me of parents and brother who were part of my first holiday seasons and are no longer here. Others remind of when our own children were young, and I miss that. But often these old classics bring warm and gentle feelings.
Tradition has it that there was music at the first Christmas. The Bible doesn’t exactly say that. In Luke, we read, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests’.”
But it has long been held by Christians that this moment, now 2,000 years ago, was filled with glorious singing. That might be the best oldie ever.