Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Slice of Life Tuesday: A Musical Time Machine

Note: This post is for Slice of Life Tuesday on the Two Writing Teachers blog! 

I've been thinking a lot about music lately. My students have been recommending new tracks for our class Spotify playlist, and I've been rediscovering songs that I love in the process. I'm always amazed at how quickly a song can transport me back to a moment, and I can feel the emotions as if they were brand new all over again. As I clicked through my music this morning, I found myself listening to a soundtrack of my life in a way.

I click play, and I'm sitting in the car with Becca, my younger sister, and belting out "Chemicals React" by Aly & AJ, a sugary-sweet Disney channel duo who provided the background noise for our endless trips to Sonic in the year before I left for college. We had hand gestures for most songs, and I remember many nights hunched over my steering wheel, laughing so hard I could barely breathe because of our dramatic antics. I sing along, and I remember that music can be a bond, a shared experience, a memory.

The first notes of "Your Heart is an Empty Room" on Death Cab for Cutie's album "Plans" play, and just like that, I'm holding my hand out my crappy Dodge Neon with the sunroof that never quite opened up all the way, feeling that first hint of fall crispness in the air as I drove home from college for the first time. I had never heard the song before, but thanks to a kid who lived on my floor, I had the perfect soundtrack to how I was feeling: full of possibility, that I was where I was supposed to be. Each time I hear that song, I feel the potential of now and remember to look forward without forgetting the past.

Camper Van Beethoven's "All Her Favorite Fruit" sends me back to nights spent in front of a computer, trying to make a long-distance relationship work. Emails and music files winging back and forth above our heads were substitutes for face-to-face conversation, and I thought that they could be laid end to end and used to build a bridge between us. The plaintive strings of the song play, and I'm reminded that sometimes, you can't always have what you want, and your best efforts still end up failing. And that's okay.

Six, reverberating notes from a stand-up bass find me standing in a field of grass that is slowly dying from the heat of the dog days of summer. The humidity doesn't bother me. I'm rooted to the spot, mesmerized, and watching a live performance of "Julep" by The Punch Brothers. I let the simplicity of the music and the lyrics wash over me, and it feels right when it starts to rain gently on the crowd. None of us move. We all want to savor the moment, the beautiful blending of the fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar and bass. As I listen, I remember that it's okay to stand still and just focus on the now.

Music, like writing and reading, has always been a mirror--I see glimpses of myself, past and present, in the sounds and lyrics of a song. So when I just need to remember who and where I have been, all I have to do is scroll through my music library...and I'm back there again, reliving the moments that defined me, a beautiful soundtrack to my life.


  1. It is incredible how music can transport us back to another time and place, isn't it?

  2. Everything you say about music rings so true for me. And I love that you have a class Spotify playlist. Fun.

  3. Everything you say about music rings so true for me. And I love that you have a class Spotify playlist. Fun.