Category Archives: Music

Music, Memories, and Emotions

The other day, I was listening to the radio while driving, and “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith came on.  I absolutely love that song and want to include it here.  So thanks to YouTube, enjoy a nice rendition with lyrics, no less:

I actually have an emotional history associated with this song.  The song was quite popular on the radio back in 1998, thanks to Armageddon.  At the time, I was also involved with a young man name Zech.  It was actually my first relationship, providing you don’t count the friend I experimented with in high school.  The song meant a lot to me back then.  Every time I heard it, I thought of Zech.

The other day when I heard the same song, it made me think of another guy.  I’ll call this guy D (until he tells me he’s ready for me to talk about him by name.  D and I have been talking, hanging out, and otherwise enjoying each other’s company.  We’re not actually dating, though I hope that changes some day in the not-too-distant future.

What I find interesting is that while similar, the reaction the song evokes in me regarding D now and the reaction I had back when I was involved with Zech.  In both cases, the theme of the song — the desire to be with that special someone as much as possible — resonated deeply with me.  However, the emotional undercurrents are worlds apart.

As I mentioned, Zech was my first boyfriend (though come to think of it, we never officially dated).  We were both young and immature, and I was only recently out (I had only finally accepted my sexuality two years earlier).  This meant that I was going through a lot of emotional turmoil, and tended to cling to Zech in a sense of desperation.  And that desperation came through back then as I’d listen to the song.  I didn’t want to miss a thing, because I was terrified that things would end.  Part of me wanted to squeeze as much out of the relationship before the horrible ending came, and part of me foolishly believed that simply by being ever-present, ever-vigilant, and ever-suffocating, I could actually prevent the horrible ending from coming.

I’ve grown up a great deal in the intervening twelve years, and I now listen to that song again with a new guy in mind.  And once again, I find myself nodding along with the song.  But rather than a nagging sense of desperation, my heart is filled with a sense of peace and contentment.

The funny thing is, there area  few parallels.  There’s no guarantee that things will work out between D and I.  (Is there ever really any such guarantee?)  I don’t know how long I have with him or even if we’ll ever become a couple like I’m hoping for.  I think it’s likely though.

But in the end, it doesn’t matter.  I have this time now, and I want to make the most of it.  Not out of fear or desperation, but out of hope and joy.

People often talk about how music can evoke powerful emotions and we can associate specific memories and feelings with a song.  However, I sometimes think that people forget that new connections and associations can be made with old songs that replace or overpower the old ones.  I know from personal experience that this is true, because I enjoy “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” far more today than I did back in 1998.

In fact, I think I’m going to go listen to it again.

Christmas Song Commentary

Cover of "O Holy Night"

Cover of O Holy Night

My mother called me a Scrooge (mostly in jest) earlier today.  I commented that I’d soon be able to go back to listening to my favourite radio station.  I always switch stations the week of Thanksgiving because that’s when this particular station starts playing Christmas music 24/7.  And while I certainly enjoy the occasional Christmas song (I like how the station I switch to tends to play three or four Christmas songs at the top of every hour before returning to their regular schedule of “playing everything”), there are just so many renditions of “Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” and “O Holy Night” I can listen to before it just gets tiresome.

However, my mother’s comment (and she’s not the first to make this comment to me) got me thinking.  There are Christmas songs that I absolutely love and am glad to hear a few times throughout this time of year.  So without further ado, I offer you my favourite Christmas songs and why I love them.

Christmas Shoes” is a relatively new Christmas song.  And while I know plenty of people who dislike it because it’s not very musically interesting and horribly sentimental (I’ve heard the phrase “the emotional equivalent of a sledgehammer blow” used), I absolutely love it.  This is mainly because it deals with some topics near and dear to me.  And the fact that the song is told from a certain perspective — one most of us don’t consider — earns it points to.  To me, this is a song that’s not only about Christmas, but how a little boy chooses to face a tragedy he’s powerless against during the Christmas season.  It’s about mourning, coping with loss, and showing fierce love through it all.

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” is just a fun little piece that came out several years ago.  It’s silly and it’s fun, and it just makes me laugh.  Though I will note that this is one that I might get tired of in a few more years.

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” is another fun little piece, and it’s another chance to see part of the whole Christmas experience through the eyes of a child.  I think what also endears this song to me is the fact that I’ve always assumed that “Santa Claus” is really the boy’s father dressed up as Santa.  Which means that the “scandalous” act he caught his mother in is nothing more than his parents engaging in a little fun while Dad prepares to do the “Santa act.”  In fact, I often imagine the little boy eventually “telling on Mommy” and his parents looking at each other with a puzzled look that says, “Oh dear, how are we going to navigate through this one?”

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra is one of the most phenomenal pieces of Christmas music released in the past fifteen years, in my opinion.  The hymn is a good one, and the way TSO mixed it with “Carol of the Bells” (another fantastic piece in its own right) was just phenomenal.  That fusion makes this song stand above most remakes of most classic Christmas songs, in my opinion.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is another beautiful song that tries to both show the contrast between the peaceful message of Christmas with the reality we live in and that the message is ultimately stronger.  It’s a song that attempts to capture the “hope in darkness” that Christmas is supposed to be all about.  And for that, I think it’s worth a thousand renditions of “Away in the Manger.”

O Holy Night” is probably one of my all time favourite Christmas songs, and yet it’s one of the songs that I usually dislike hearing on the radio.  This is because to me, my cousin’s annual (though I’m not sure she does it every year any more) solo of this song during church defines my expectations for this song.  Sandra has a good voice, and it’s pretty well fit for this song.  And the way that she alters the volume of her voice throughout the song makes it truly beautiful.  And there’s just something about hearing a soprano belting out a high-pitched, vibrant “fall on your knees” that fills you with a desire to fall on your knees.  To be frank, this is a powerful song that seems to be turned into a mere “performance” by most of the ready-for-radio renditions I’ve heard.

Of course, in honor of Yule, I have yet to find a song that beats “Fearless and Fine” by Castalia.

Musical flashback

While driving to Applebee’s tonight, Aerosmith’s song, I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, came on the radio. There are many songs that are deeply connected to memories of people and events in my life, and this is one such song. In fact, it’s probably one of the most strongly connected songs I can think of.

Tonight, this song took me back to my relationship with my first boyfriend. At the time Chris (not his real name) and I were dating, this song was relatively new and seeing a lot of airtime across the nation. And every time I heard it, I became more deeply convinced that it was the perfect song to describe how I felt about our relationship. In fact, I think I pointed this out to Chris at the time.

Thinking about the relationship now, I can still understand why I felt this way. Chris and I seldom saw each other (we probably spent barely over a week total together throughout the six months we were “involved”), and it was perfectly reasonable for me to want to make as much of that precious rare time as I could. On more than one occasion, I ended up taking a sick or personal day off work just so I could have those eight more hours with him.

Of course, there were other reasons for feeling like this, too. The relationship wasn’t healthy, and I knew it. And that made me want to cling to it even tighter, holding it together out of my own desparation. Aerosmith’s song spoke to me powerfully and romantically about that desparation I was feeling. In many ways, I used that song to validate my sense of desperation.

As I listened to that song this evening and allowed these memories and thoughts to play through my mind, I began to ask myself many questions. The first question was whether there was any pain associated with this song or the memories that it evoked. There wasn’t, and I have to admit that I’m a little surprised by that. Certainly, there’s a certain morose feel to the whole thing as I think of mistakes made and lessons learned. And there’s the memory of the pain that used to be there. There’s the knowledge that years ago, hearing this song would’ve driven me to tears almost instantly. But not this evening. This evening, there was merely a sense of familiarity and a knowledge of what has passed. And while I find it somewhat strange, I also find it rather comforting.

Of course, I also asked myself how I felt about the message of the song today. If I were with someone, would this song still reflect how I would feel about a new relationship? And I think that for the most part, I can say that it doesn’t. Because now, my love relationships aren’t about desperation, they’re about something else.

The underlying premise of the song is about a relationship that would consume my whole life, an that’s not what I’m lookin fo at all. Certainly, I want a lover I can share my life with, and I’d prefer to spend the rest of my life with him. And there are certainly those moments I will want to get lost in, but only for a time. Because there are other things in my life that are equally important. And I do not wish to give up those things completely just so I can make sure I “don’t miss a thing” with my lover. That just isn’t healthy.

It’s strange to think of the thought processes a song can initiate. Of course, I also find it interesting that this all started on the same day that I had a dream about Chris (sadly, I don’t remember any details) while napping.

The local bishop must really hate these guys.

Last night, I took Belinda and Jim to Equal Grounds to hear the musical and comic stylings of a local group called The Monastery Dropouts. Unfortunately, this group doesn’t appear to have a website, so I can’t link to them (or keep track of their future performances).

I had never heard of group until a couple weeks ago when I received an email from Equal Grounds (I’m on their mailing list) announcing that they would be performing live at the coffee shop. I forwarded the email to Michele, knowing that she and Belinda would be in town the day of the show and suggested it as possible entertainment for the evening. Everyone seemed to like the idea, though Michele was unable to go with us.

The group’s act can probably be best described the way Jim put it, part cabaret, part comedy act. The two members of the show are quick-witted, funny, and sing quite well. Their musical repertoire included such songs as The Vatican Rag by Tom Lehrer. In between songs, both men would banter back and forth and even with the audience, making for a humorous atmosphere. It’s not clear how much of the banter was scripted and how much was improvisational, though both men would probably claim it’s 100% the latter. If so, I would certainly never want to get into a battle of wits with either of them.

The show was marvellous and lasted for over two hours. The four of us (Becky joined us there late) all agreed we’d go see The Monastery Dropouts again if given the chance.