Sunday, August 03, 2008

Epiphany #1: There must be music

One of the greatest things about subscribing to Dish Network is the access it provides to German television. I don't watch a whole lot of t.v., but for a relatively smart person, I can waste time on the dumbest programs. Maybe that's why I don't watch much. If I didn't curb myself, I'd probably squander my weekends watching Sunset Tan marathons on E!

This morning, I got sucked in as I was flipping through the channels and noticed Nena (yes, that Nena!) singing a song that was not 99 Luftballons. I know! Who knew such a thing existed??? Next thing I know, I was parked on the couch sipping lemonade and watching a ca. 1983 episode of Hits with the Huns. I'm telling you, if that era taught you nothing about the dubious wisdom of pairing a bright yellow flashdance top with a tomato red leather micromini, an hour of watching parade of 80's couture unfold to bad, synth-heavy German pop will show you the error of your misguided (and possibly bemulleted, headbanded) ways.

Watching it was like being back in high school - if I had gone to high school in Germany. Because it was back in the days before everyone hated us, the jokes about Americans were good natured and limited to country music and what those whacky Ewings were up to on Dallas that week. Along with some special and uniquely German acts, a lot of the line up looked like a series of tribute bands. There was a German David Byrne, a German George Michael, a German Human League, etc. My hands down favorite segment, though, had to be a band called Ready Teddy doing a rockabilly homage to The King with a performance of "Goody Goody". I tried to no avail to google a pic of their lead singer, but picture a hip wiggling, Knight Rider era David Hasselhoff with a pompadour and an Elvis jumpsuit and you've pretty much got the idea.

Looking back at that era, so much of the music was total crap, but I was SO into it at the time. As a teenager, I spent most of my money on clothes, albums and concert tickets. Back in the day, when MTV was still new exciting and actually spent its days playing music instead of Cribs and lame reality shows, there were times when my best friend and I would spend hours in front of the t.v. just waiting for a new Duran Duran or Cure video to come on. We thought we were so cool with our big hair (which later morphed into asymmetrical hair) and our "artistic" sensibilities. No red leather micromini, but I did at one point own a dark crinoline that I delighted in wearing over leggings during my clove smoking, black period. It was not a pretty time in the evolution of my fashion sense (or my lungs). For me those years before I developed my own sense of style are a time when music and fashion became intertwined. Especially during the advent of the video age, the experience of music wasn't just auditory but visual and it was huge.

The truth is, the music part still is huge. It always has been. Thanks to growing up in a house with a broad array of musical influences. Although I went through a few years in my teens, when I didn't want anything to do with some of it, my tastes now are pretty eclectic. My parents used to tease me that I was the only baby on the block with her own sound system. When I would get upset, they'd slip something soothing on my dad's old reel to reel (!) tape recorder and I'd calm right down. My mom has tapes of me (from the same reel to reel) at about 3, singing the Hänsel und Gretl song in German until becoming outraged at just how evil the evil witch was. At that point, I broke off to repeatedly scream böse, böse Hexe! (bad, bad witch!) like an irate, pitchfork toting villager looking for a good stake burning. If only there were video... Apparently, I had a flare for drama. I wonder what ever happened to it.

But that's what music does. It cements itself in your memory. It moves you. It takes you places. A few measures and you're transported. Sometimes it (even if it's bad 80's pop) it takes you back to being fourteen again. It can your youth and what it was like to want to dance or fall in love or both. Or it can make you wistful, hopeful, happy, excited, sad. When it's really good, it makes you want to dive deep into its layers, just short of drowning in its sound. There is nothing that can change my mood as quickly as music. And, with the exception of writing, there's nothing that captures my consciousness, taking me to the same headspace as playing it does.

And that is my first epiphany in my "what makes me happiest" makeover - there must be music. Whether it's listening to it, watching it be performed or playing it myself (more on that later!), it is a huge part of the little things in life that lift the spirit, and that makes me happy.