I don’t get to listen to much of my music anymore. My days are accompanied by the sounds of a five-year old’s obsession. Occasionally he interrupts my silent thoughts to show me something he finds amusing. Rarely, he shares with me a song, sung sheepishly along with the video it is on. When we drive, I listen to the radio. Random rock or country music. I sing along to the Dixie Chicks- he knows who they are. The first song he ever said he liked was by Van Halen. He enjoys the music, he cheers Music when we get into the car and during the brief silences between songs.
My man is into Rock. He has introduced me to Ghost- a Swedish pantomime of Satanic rock, described by the lead singer, better known as ‘Papa’ as music theater. The religion major in me loves the symbolism, the fantasy and the irony. He asked me this week if I wanted him to make me a soundike account so I could listen to the music I like. Rebuild the collection of songs that I have gathered over the decades that mean something to me, and the ones that meant something to me at a particular time or place. Sound capsules of moments that live only in my memory, spoken of only when reminded. Songs I rarely hear in this ‘new’ country, not on the radio or in the store or while I am on hold. He is right to remind me I need to listen to this more often. Music is something that helps shape and solidify moments of meaning that are sometimes intangible.
It got me thinking about what I don’t hear; my accent, my story, my home, female voices, and their stories. The ones that I can relate to, the ones similar to mine. Those that I can learn from. The ones that might contain for me a moment of clarity, familiarity, understanding, hope, realization, comfort and memory. We discussed the soundscape of the home. I acknowledged my deficit in contributing my sound. The only female voice. A foreign one. I owe it to stand in my place, take up room, time and, yes, music.
I began then, I played him some of New Zealand’s best music (according to a random internet poll). Some of it I agreed with. Most of it he had never heard. Among them he found a gem. ‘Loyal’, Dave Dobbyn (1988). I followed this with ‘Why does love do this to me?‘ by The Exponents. I sang along with the lyrics surprised he hadn’t heard it before. I told him how I had quoted the song to him before not realising (Edward T Hall, you are right again) that my cultural blindness hadn’t conceived that he didn’t know this song.
‘Don’t dream it’s over’, Neil Finn (Crowded House, 1987) A love anthem for the ages
‘Six months in a leaky boat’, Tim Finn (Split Enz, 1982) has a new meaning for me now that I am so far away from home.
‘Jesus I was evil’, Darcy Clay (1997) buoyed my spirits with its quirkiness
‘Dominion Road’, Don McGlashan (The Mutton Birds, 1993) was a memory
To reinforce his previous enjoyment of Dobbyn I had to pull up the animated music video of ‘Slice of heaven’, Dave Dobbyn (Dave Dobbyn with Herbs, 1986). I don’t think much could remind me of that sheep dog.
‘Drive’, Bic Runga (1996) has melancholia and hopelessness that I once felt more keenly, the years have replaced the pain of that feeling yet it is still definable, easily grasped with the song as a reminder.
Graspable to the longing for home that I feel watching the music video of my ‘home town’ in Runga‘s ‘Something Good’. As I write this ‘Listening For The Weather’ plays as tears roll down my face. Because music is more than sound. It can be your story, your history and your pain.
It is an art that has the power to tell the story of whom you are, who you have been and what you may yet be if you have a few minutes. If you feel like taking a quick tour of the New Zealand soundscape here is the list from which I drew my inspiration for my impromptu music tour of my homeland.
Title Line from ‘Something Good’ by Bic Runga