Sep 26, 2004

Wedding #9... Music and Memory

Yes, that's right - the year is 3/4 over, and we've gone to an average of one wedding per month. We went to my childhood friend's wedding reception last night, with Mom, sis, and A. We had a great time together, and we're just so happy for our friend, who looked radiant and effused a kind of joy that makes you want to jump onto the dance floor to join her in her revelry. I wish that we'd been able to make the wedding in the morning, but with our hectic schedules of late, we just weren't able to commit to a full day.

The reception was held in a vineyard in western NJ, which is a world apart from the crowded, traffic-ridden metropolitan regions closer to NYC. It reminded us individually of the places where we'd grown up, the smell of freshly cut grass, the rolling hills in the near distance, and the wider openness bringing a sense of return, a sense of familiarity to the 90-minute drive.

I was inspired by at least one small element of Rush drummer Neil Peart's latest book Traveling Music, which I'm still committed to finish (at least so I can move on and not feel that I may have missed out on some solid kernel of revelation, embedded somewhere in the final tenth of nearly 400 pages of navel-gazing and meandering recollections of disjointed past experiences and moments, many of which have little to actually do with music). Though I find his style is alternately dull, repetitive, self-important, and affected, (there are probably 600 individual words that have been italicized to make some emphatic point - the stylistic and repetitive equivalent of a valley girl saying "like" - we get the point, Neil. Give it a rest.)

I really liked his concept of filling a CD changer with specific CDs and allowing the albums to speak for themselves and both recall specific moments of memory, and at some point, if the album is strong enough a musical statement, to transcend the personal memories and still stand on its own as superb music. So I popped in 10 CDs a couple of days ago, anticipating the road time, and trying to anticipate the moods that we'd all be in on both the road to and return from the festivities. I think that I did okay - my favorite moments came from the impromptu sing-along to a number of selections from U2's Achtung Baby from the trio choir of decked out desi women in the back of our small sedan at 11 PM!

I had just found the album again after months of backburner searching, and to no surprise, the songs, and album as a whole have stood the test of time and my own intermittent genre jumping for something entirely different once in a while. Peart writes about this ability of the finest music to transcend the interaction between that music and specific memories (which has such a strong ability to make music appreciation into a highly personal, and emotionally charged - endeavor). Achtung Baby most definitely marks a personal high point for me, recalling the heady days of freshman year in college, when anything was possible, and everything was new. Interestingly, I can also trace the album to the following year, which was mixed in a lot of ways for me - the variation in the individual songs lending themselves to my changing moods. I guess a sure sign of a great album is when your favorite track on it changes over time. It was an appropriate disk, considering that it was also a favorite of my friend who had just gotten married.

Back to the reception... and music. It was interesting that once the dancefloor opened up, certain music elicited excited responses from the entire mixed group of second generation desis, white folk of the gen-x variety, and assorted first and 1.5 generation immigrants. The bhangra and filmi remixes were almost uniformly celebrated, everyone with their own take on how to enjoy them. Even when the DJ played Girls Just Want to Have Fun, it seemed like a lot of folks were grooving in their own way. But later in the evening, when aforementioned triad decided to take the set list into their own hands and request from the retro tracks carefully selected by the stars of the evening, half the floor cleared out almost immediately, leaving only the children of the 80s to revel in their collective memories of simpler times (and music). With the first chords of A Little Respect, the wave of pure exaltation that audibly rose from those who had been dancing to Billy Idol's Dancing With Myself was a marvel. For almost half an hour, while those of us who remembered, danced... those who did not share in those memories watched, standing in the sidelines. New Wave is such an interesting phenomena that doesn't seem to have the same broad appeal, at least on the dancefloor, as hip-hop. I remember on L's b-day, when a cousin of ours had an incredulous look on her face as the rest of us sang along and danced with New Wave songs at Odeon.

What is even more interesting is that M, our friend whose wedding we were celebrating, went to the DJ and said "I want to hear Big Country, now!" I didn't know the song, but as it came on, others seemed really happy and excited about it - including D. As we danced to it, A and I realized that neither of us knew the tune either - but saw my sister - 5 years younger than us - singing along... Apparently, learning the lyrics of an 80s song isn't all that hard. In an even more interesting sidenote (assuming that any of this is of interest to anyone who isn't mentioned in this thing): I listened to Big Country again today, aided by the wonderful technology of... well... if the FBI is reading (or the CIA is monitoring this because it's acquired Blogger as part of its comprehensive web-based counter-terrorism initiative "Cointelpro-ster")... I won't name names. But I sure do like Lime juice! In listening to the first 10 seconds of the song, I noticed something that sounded familiar, cross-referenced it with another mp3 in my library, and have confirmation. Get ready for this, cuz it's a doozy:

The drumbeat, and initial enthusiastic yell of "Shot!" or "Shout!" in the song Big Country, is echoed, repeated, and otherwise duplicated with a small revision of verbal exclamation "Not!" in.... Anthrax's I'm The Man, their loony foray into rap-metal.
How weird is that? I've known the Anthrax song well enough, actually for years, but I had never heard this song that it was mocking, when I thought I've heard every New Wave 80s tune ad nauseum. Ahh - the beauty of small and weird things.


As a final aside, in my internet search for any mention of this interesting connection, I found this Langston Hughes poem, which I actually want to write about at some point - it hit close to home for me - as a number of his poems have.


burnedouteyes said...

"I'm the Man"?? Ha! that's hilarious! "Not!!!"

Rage said...

thanks for the pick-me-up, man - i knew i could rely on you to get the sheer irony of it.