• Jae

Music and Me

Updated: Aug 31, 2019

My Definition of Music

mu·sic noun, often attributive \ˈmyü-zik

1. The sound made by air moving through an instrument or by one object being struck against another; a whisper through the ear, striking the drum/reverberating through the senses. 2. Sounds and words combined; bringing the muse out from hiding/her celebratory cadence and pulse beating a rhythm, matching the hearts of the masses/her sweet melodies wafting on random winds/vocal anger and pain delivered with delicious drama/resonate vibrations of elation drifting through time/relevant harmonic phrases dashing through distance/souls clapping.

Music & Mom

My Mom and I had a very complicated relationship. We did not even come close to seeing eye to eye on almost every little thing. We had layers upon layers of misunderstanding about who we were as individuals. Our Mother and Child relationship was wrought with emotional upheaval which would not be quelled until I set out on my own at eighteen years old. It took years of separation - of space and of time, before we started to make important connections that we would use to become closer to better, healthier understandings. That whole story is an essay (probably a book) for another time. But the music in our home was the part of our story that was not tangled up in a maelstrom of hard feelings. The most vivid, the best of all my memories, encompass a commonality with my Mom that is based on the love of music.

Here's two of them:

It's the kind of day where the big puffy clouds float across the sky in a slow parade across the blazing, mid-day summer sun. I'm sitting on the clover and buttercup covered grass, cool and ticklish on my bare legs. I'm propped up with my back against the sun baked wall of our house, under the open dining room window. On the other side of that wall, Mom plays Green Sleeves on the organ. For the next half hour, that wall between us crumbles down while she continues to practice. We are no longer warring. All the emotional upheaval between us floats away on a gently summer breeze. We are now, simply the music maker and a child who loves music and who loves her for making it.

It's the kind of New England early winter day when its not quite cold enough to snow so dark and dreary with low hanging, heavy clouds. Mom is driving our blue station wagon through light traffic. We are headed downtown for some grocery shopping. She unclasps and opens the little triangle window on the driver side of the car. She lights her cigarette with a match; the familiar and well loved smell of burnt sulphur and Winston tobacco wafts over me where I sit behind her in the back seat. Pelting, near frozen rain hits the windshield where the wipers cross back and forth with the same rhythm and beat of the song playing on the radio. I close my eyes and listen to Mom sing along with Petula Clark:

“We can forget all our troubles, forget all our cares So go Downtown Things will be great when you're Downtown Don't wait a minute more Downtown Everything is waiting for you Downtown”

Warmth washes over me as I make the connection. At that moment, Mom is magical. Mom is cosmic. I forget all our troubles, forget all our cares... because we are going downtown.

Music & Family

I was already a miserable fourteen year old kid living thousands of miles away from my beloved friends in South Weymouth, Massachusetts when the Northeast monsoon season of 1972, dumped nearly 2 full months of rainy days on our Peace Corp home in Kuantan, Malaysia. Day after day, wet, dreary, humid grayness permeated our lives. Though we lived in a comfortable,modern -ish second floor flat, we had no air conditioning, no hot water and openings all along the perimeter walls that let in the rain. We took quinine pills and lit smoke rings to keep the giant buzzing mosquitoes from infecting us with malaria while we tried to sleep. There was widespread flooding in our small coastal, farm town. Up to that point, Dad had been working hard to help the local rice farmers secure their farm equipment high up on the walls of makeshift shacks so that it wouldn't be ruined by rain and rust.

My Mom was doing her level best to keep our spirits up. She had a small cassette player upon which we would make tapes to send to our relatives back home and in turn they would record and send one to us every once in a while. And I wore out both sides of the Bridge Over Troubled Water album/tape. Even the cassette player tinny speakers could not stop me from listening to those beautiful harmonies and meaningful lyrics, over and over again. We also listened to the Beatles and one of Mom's favorites, Paul Williams. There were others that escape my fading memories. But the fact that music was one of the remedies for long days of cabin fever during that long, dark monsoon season, has stayed with me all my life.

All the young people whom I claim as my own chosen family, came into my life with music. Each of them was given a gift of Music in the form of a song title that the Universe chose for them specifically; Sweet Child of Mine, In my Daughter's Eyes, The Greatest, I Believe I Can Fly, Beautiful, You Are My Sunshine, Your Song, Airplanes. There is so much meaning in those titles, the lyrics, the arrangement of those notes. Every best and hard time we ever spent together was full of music that keeps us connected as time travels on.

Music & Loves

My heart swells when I hear music that reminds me of big love. Whenever I hear Lady in Red playing on the radio, I see Mom and Dad holding each other in a loving embrace, swaying back and forth in their kitchen dance. Mom quietly sings the melody while Dad whistles the harmony. Music has always had a way of electrifying my big feels when falling in or out of love. From my earliest crush to my latest love, The Beatles, Beach Boys, Mamas and Papas, Prince, Peaches and Cream, Alicia Keys, Ed Sheeran, David Gray, Sam Smith, Adele and many others seemed to know my heart. From the lowest lows of broken love, broken trust and broken hearts to the highest highs of burgeoning love, falling in love, being in love and staying in love, from mixed tapes to Spotify play lists – the gift of music is a gift of love.

Music & Memories

I often think of my beloveds who have passed on to a new realm and those who are still here but far away from me. These troubled times we live in can be nerve wracking, frustrating and often times scary. We need music to uplift us, to remind us of kindness, of falling in love, of reaching out hands and hearts to each other. Music memories take us to the laughter, dancing, singing – the feeling of home, family, love. Music memories become part of our DNA. They stay with us and follow us. They are there for us for all the days. At the happiest most joy filled times of my life, music has been my constant companion. And at the lowest hours of my life, music pulled me back from the edge of the cliff over and over again. Like a best friend, music has shown up for me every single time, without judgment, with only love.

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