It’s been a rough year on music. Every time I hear of another death I think that it has to be the last one for the year, that the universe or God or the FSM isn’t cruel enough to let it keep going on. And yet. A friend of my optimistically said that perhaps this leaves room for the talent of our generation to shine brighter. 

***

When I was in high school, I used to curl up around my guitar when I was sad or lonely, Ani DiFranco lyrics echoing through my head. I am up again against the skin of my guitar / in the window of my life, looking out through the bars. I didn’t play well, or publicly, but I played.

Music was an integral part of my childhood. As a kid, I always knew when my dad had gotten home before my mom. The music would be blasting and he’d be in the center of the room, sometimes lying down on the floor, listening. He let me browse and borrow his records and tapes and CDs. Sometimes he let me keep them. As a teenager, I was always amazed that my dad already knew about the incredible music I was discovering. It almost made him cool.

***

“Funny business, a woman’s career.  The things you drop on your way up the ladder– so you can move faster– you forget you’ll need them when you go back to being a woman.”

I always thought this referred to things unique to women. Being a mother, a caregiver, having time for your family. But it’s more than that, and it’s not just about being a woman. It’s the pieces of ourselves we turn off so that we can fit better into our jobs. It’s the decision to put our politics or our values on the back burner so that we don’t get called out for being different.

I stopped listening to music because I wanted to be the kind of person who was well-informed about the world, who listened to podcasts and could make intelligent small talk at cocktail parties. I stopped listening to music because we lived in apartments with thin walls and we didn’t want to disturb the neighbors. I stopped listening to music because our speakers all broke and I wanted to pay off the bills and put money into the 401(k) rather than splurging on a luxury.

I failed to realize that music isn’t a luxury. If the cracks in the world are where the light gets through, then music is the hammer at the wall.

***

I brought my guitar out of the closet. I played until my fingers hurt, and then I played some more. I hadn’t let myself remember until then how good it felt to have strings against my fingers.

 

* “This music is the glue of the world, Mark. It’s what holds it all together. Without this, life would be meaningless.” — Empire Records