Jam Session

Photo courtesy of Shishi Shomloo

I try not to think too much about how old I am, but it never seems to work. Every day, I correct “16” with “17” and remember that my mom still knows lyrics from songs that haven’t been big since 1968. This is when I remind myself that the music I listen to every day — the songs I repeat until my ears are numb — will one day be retro, and all I will remember are the words.

I could never listen to my music loud — not in an up-close kind of way — and I doubt I ever will. I get flack from my friends for not listening to music loud enough because, for them, the point of music is to be unable to hear the things around you. I value my eardrums, but I don’t care about making my neighbors lose some sleep. So, I crank my records loud until I can feel them in the walls. Bottom line: I don’t want to be deaf by the time I’m thirty, but I can definitely appreciate music played at the proper volume for a jam session.

Somehow, I feel like my aversion to blasting earbuds won’t stop me from hugging music so tightly to my chest that it makes it hard to breathe. Music is with me in a terrifyingly close, sibling-like way. I’m going to drag it around with me until the cord snaps or until I just decide to give it away.

When I was flying over to Europe by myself last summer, the plane was so cold and my head was so foggy that all I wanted was someone warm to wrap their arms around me. So I made a playlist called, creatively enough, “hold me.” I think about that decision all the time and wonder if  — over time, as the years turn by, as I long for and angst and dream and lie in an empty bed — I’ll end up with ten more “hold me” playlists, each of them a pathetic attribute of solitude. The other question I then ask myself is: Would those playlists be different? Or would I latch onto the same five songs, shove in some fillers, and shake up the list just to say it’s something different, just to pretend that I haven’t felt the same need for warmth before?

I constantly wonder if the great divide between high school and college will take my music taste around the bend. I’m already what you could call “eclectic,” considering I like pretty much any music except for hardcore country and that my first steps were an odd little wobble-dance to The Planets, “Jupiter” specifically, by Holst. Will this wobbling dancer become a screaming metalhead? Or pure indie, too good for the mainstream? Or a hardcore pop addict?

While all of those options seem most unlike me, the recurring thought always returns:  In thirty years’ time, Arcade Fire will be the new Elton John, The Naked and Famous the new Eurythmics, Muse the new Led Zeppelin. I already spend most of my time listening to music that’s forty years old, and, one day, that same music will be seventy, even eighty years old — T. Rex will be a veteran… Now that’s an odd thought!

But, in the same moment that I feel this odd, rolling chaos, I remember that music is what it is because we are so good at sharing it and saving it. I remember that, although I have to face the future agonizingly soon, I will always have access to the very sounds that keep me sane. I can listen to “We Got It Wrong” as I dust my bedroom, my cat winding around my ankles in an effort to trip me up. I can listen to it again before I graduate from college, or while I trek through the Andes, or on the odd day when I decide to bake a loaf of bread. No matter where I am — no matter what I’ve seen or how long it’s been since I’ve listened to that certain song — I will always remember the first and last time I listened to it, and I will always smile.



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