Music, like nothing else, marks our time on this earth, and recorded music brings it all right back. Each of us has our own soundtrack to our own story, and my playlist continues to evolve.
When I moved out east a few years back, I brought with me all that I could; clothing, art, computer and camera equipment, and those things that brought me comfort, including my stereo.
I was limited to what would fit in the car, and part of preparing for the trip was paring down a substantial music collection.
My Mac was stuffed with music, and compact discs are more easily transported, but the thousands of records I had accumulated over the decades presented a major problem. I spent months deciding on the right albums, limiting myself to two boxes (of course I brought more). I passed on the remainder of the collection to my daughter (also, an avid vinyl collector).
When I arrived at my destination, the first thing I did was set up the stereo system; somehow it made things feel a bit more like home. Everything sounded familiar. Music has always been that thing that seems to keep me connected to time and place.
I remember I was scared, literally, the first time I heard Led Zeppelin in the very early ‘70s. I have particularly vivid thoughts of a hot June afternoon set to a Yo-Yo Ma CD. When I listen to any Rush album, I recall being in an arena crowd of about 200 people in 1976, and also seeing the same band playing to tens of thousands of fans three decades later.
There are memories of drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain, listening to Elton John’s Captain Fantastic on 8-track, sitting in a friend’s car at 2:30 a.m. ‘Sweet freedom whispered in my ear’. I was 15, at Clear Lake, and, yes, it was well past curfew and I should have been home in bed but right then, nothing else mattered but the music and the company we kept.
Music does that; it seals in time, where we were and whom we were with. It documents a certain place, like nothing else.
Music is the best.
My musical interests, and my collection, are vast and deep, from pop to punk, jazz, folk, classical and classic rock. It spans decades. I still go back to the early stuff. Even now, when I spend a Saturday cruising Toronto’s wealth of wonderful record shops, I’m always searching for an elusive album, or one I may have left behind.
That’s not to say I only listen to the past. There is always amazing new music, as there always has been, no matter what year (anybody who hasn’t listened to Craig Finn’s recent I Need A New War, should).
I got to thinking about not only how much of my time has been spent listening to music, but how many albums I have heard. Playing recorded music, like no other pastime, can be done while you are doing something else. I play music when I cook, or clean. There’s usually music playing when I write, or drive, or play Scrabble, or . . . whatever.
I decided, at the beginning of this year, that I would keep track of how many albums I listen to in a year. I add to the list each time I hear a complete album, writing down the artist and title. I even write down the albums I listen to again, and again, each time. There are several albums I seem to play with some frequency, depending on the mood or the moment (including the aforementioned Craig Finn record).
So far, this year, including the disc I am playing right now, I have listened to 442 albums. I have no idea if this is an average amount of listening, but I do know I have plenty of albums I still need to get around to.
What I have found myself doing is listening, and appreciating, the music a little more deeply than I have been for a while. True to this use-what-you-already-have attitude I have taken on over the past while, I am digging deep into the boxes of albums I brought with me. These are the records I took the time to select and haul halfway across this country, so they must be important.
I listen to them and realize they are. Still. Now. Evermore.
Music is the best.