Friday, September 17, 2010

I Hear Music, Therefore I Am

Am I the only one who listens to the music being played in the supermarket? I find myself singing along, throwing cereal boxes in time with a thumping bass, doing a little Fred Astaire move behind my cart, preferably when no one is looking, which is one of the reasons I tend to shop at times when other people are sleeping or working.

Wherever I am, when I hear music in the background, I feel compelled to “Name That Tune.” I usually can, but when I can’t, it will just about make me bonkers. Such things have kept me awake at night. Do you realize that you can’t google a tune? Lyrics, yes. But never a tune. If someone should invent such a device, I would definitely be willing to pay for it. And I suspect there may be other musical OCDs in the world who would pay big bucks for one, too. Just imagine. You could hum a tune, and it would tell you what the heck you’re humming. Oh, I know it’s a brave new world I’m envisioning, but I believe it can happen. I only hope it’s within my lifetime.

In restaurants, music that most other people probably don’t even notice can make or break the dining experience for me. Certain music goes with certain food. When I go to a the House of Wong and have to listen to Hip-Hop, it becomes the House of Wrong for me. Or there’s a nice family restaurant I go to that plays Jimmy Buffett; it works on “Cheeseburger in Paradise” but when he starts crooning, “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw?”… well, it just ain’t right. Especially when the kids start singing along. And then there are those times when the musical style fits the venue, but they pair it with a song that just doesn’t work. I was in an Italian restaurant where a delightful little man strolls around playing the accordion. Now, anybody who has ever seen Lady and the Tramp knows that accordion music is truly the best for eating spaghetti. It just makes you want to slurp up long noodles and stare into the eyes of your… dog. However, the last time I was at this restaurant, I heard a rendition of “By The Time I Get to Phoenix” and I couldn’t control my laughter. That’s a song that shouldn’t be played on an accordion. Especially when people are trying to eat. It was almost as bad as the time I was in a Mexican restaurant and heard a mariachi band playing “Strawberry Fields Forever.” It became quite a challenge to stuff my face with chips and salsa between giggles.

Of course, there are also those times when I find music personally troublesome. Particularly when it seems to be mocking my life. I’m driving along the highway and suddenly my engine dies, while on the radio Willie is singing, “I can’t wait to get on the road again.” Or I’m having a tiff with a parishioner who is being totally unreasonable and I am driving home from the church, fantasizing about slapping her silly, when suddenly I’m snapped back to reality with the strains of “All we need is love.” That’s when flipping the radio dial is futile because the song continues bouncing around in my brain. I’m aware of the fact that this doesn’t sound all that different from saying “Make the voices stop”, does it? Am I just a little bit crazy, perhaps? Nah! Not in the Patsy Cline sort of “Crazy” way. (FYI – Now I’m humming that song as I write this.)

I don’t like feeling as if I’m at the mercy of the music in my environment. It’s always best for me when I can control what I’m listening to. When I’m home, I make it work for me. I have learned that there is certain music that goes with certain tasks. House cleaning: classic rock. Sermon writing: baroque. Soaking in the tub: Gregorian chant. Wallowing in self-pity: country.

What would my life be like without a soundtrack? It would be like perpetually living in the library, which, quite frankly, I can only take in small doses before I want to start screaming, “I can’t stand it anymore!” and run for the door. There really ought to be music in libraries. That’s the nice thing about iPods. You can take music with you everywhere you go, including the library, if you so choose. But even without an iPod, no matter where I am, there is always music. When I’m not hearing it externally, I always seem to be creating it internally, so there’s never a time when a melody isn’t massaging my gray matter.

I suspect that when I stop hearing music I will be dead. Or maybe that’s just when it starts getting really good.