Aug 31, 2023

less well rehearsed

— The song that you save, even hide from yourself and your audio landscape, so that you won’t hear it too often and therefore preserve the direct heat-and-light connection to its association in your memory. The song that is tied to a memory so sweet — or maybe so painful — that you want to preserve its power over you. Some songs you reach for, wanting the time capsule. But the more precious ones you withhold from yourself.

— Conversely: the song that you drag out of the bin because it is just so melancholy to hear it — there is so much pathos in its DNA — and you need a hit of it occasionally to remind yourself that you survived that era. A little like pushing on a loose tooth, an assurance that there’s relief when you decide to stop. You came through that time but that song holds you in amber, that time you thought things would never change, when you were too young to know that (blah blah) only-change-coming-at-ya is both the good news and the bad news. Still, though: that was then, this is now.

— The song that you heard one now-long-ago time in the presence of people a generation younger than you, a generation for whom digital streaming flattened all decades, all youth-catalyzed ownership for any given musical style. You smirked the first time and said something about your music but they just blinked, recognizing nothing of the way you grew up, the way you first heard the songs you owned on the radio, and the songs your parents owned only on the oldies station, road trips late at night seeking whatever FM signal on offer, a slow drip of musical education before you could even grasp that your parents ever were truly young. And then later, when your own songs became the soundtrack at the grocery store and you could love them ironically because your slot was clear: Which decade, which youth time was your turn? It all vanished, you can be mad about it, but after that encounter with those younger people and the blink of unrecognition, you also shrugged and started thinking of songs outside of time. They’re just: songs, good or less good or strange or compelling and inventive. Styles, generalized.