Music and I broke up around 2010. We had always had a decent relationship, I guess, but it became increasingly apparent that the spark had faded. Since our commitment had never progressed beyond an unspoken “we’ll date—for now,” there was nothing to fall back on when our relationship hit the rocks. That year, I gave to music with a half-hour piano sonata, an album of pop tunes, and a senior composition recital. But music wasn’t giving back to me, and my efforts masked a deeper change that neither music nor I was aware of. Allow me a moment of melodrama: we simply weren’t in love anymore.
Actually, I shouldn’t say we broke up in 2010; we just became emotionally estranged, and I think it happened in 2011 or 2012. Can I change my story as I go? I’m just trying to process this. Music changed herself again (she always did—and that kept it fresh for a long time), offering me a role in an indie art-rock band. It was new and beautiful to play bass in Kairos House. I no longer had to worry about writing for classical instruments in a way that would make performers happy. (The classical world is incredibly provincial. “Not my job” is the prevailing attitude, and it’s most popularly applied to parts for one’s own instrument.) Now, in Kairos House, I could blast the living daylights out of my bass with a cello bow and headbang away my masculine angst. Not playable? Oh, we made it playable. It was loud, and it was fun.
But somehow, it came to an end. Life kept shrinking and needs kept growing. It wasn’t that the sounds of Kairos House didn’t speak to me. They did, but other music didn’t. In 2009, discovering Oceansize and Fleet Foxes had changed my life. In 2010 and 2011, these bands’ new albums should have been amazing. But nothing could match Oceansize’s Frames and Fleet Foxes’ eponymous first album. The muse, ever a fickle mistress, had not quite imbued these new offerings with that glorious golden Something Other. Each album sounded like the band that had made it; and that was the problem.
Addendum: Age of Adz gave me a glimpse of All Things Made New, but it was only a glimpse, and it faded inexplicably. Oh, and summer of 2011, music tried to woo me back with an incredible Bon Iver concert in Chicago. Hearing 2,000 people sing “what might have been lost…” has a way of changing your life. But after a few months of providing glorious sensory stimulation, Bon Iver, Bon Iver began to reveal a lack of spiritual depth. It was pure sensory form without spiritual function. I’d been had.
I was still giving back to music, but the relationship had turned somewhat abusive. Winter of 2010-11, I recorded a short album of morbid pop tunes eclipsed by mechanical noise. I called it Come, My Tired Machine, and never released it. I took music and I beat her with the noise and violence in my heart and head. But even under the bruises, she was beautiful. These are some of the best songs I’ve ever recorded.
By now, I’m sure I’ve thoroughly confused music. I am truly sorry for that—and yet, she’s been sending me mixed messages too. For my part, I never meant her any harm; I just have this recurring fear that if I invest too much in her, my writing will suffer. But oh, how part of me longs to make godawful noise on guitar again. That 50-watt Bandmaster is just gathering dust. Then there are those half-formed ideas of songs from last Fall, mouldering on the same harddrive that holds this Word document. There was something about a train sweeping by, and a lonely slow guitar tuned down to C and overdriven to hell. Yes, I’ll be back. Just give me time.
But even nowadays, the committed musicians in my life have kept me from abandoning music completely. They just keep cranking out good stuff. My fiancee’s cello playing has redeemed me on many a night of emotional sickness. My brother’s album, Strongheart, has spoken to me in ways that nothing has for several years. I absorb these sounds now without feeling the old pressure to Know Exactly What Is Happening or Produce Something Just As Good. And maybe that alone means that music and I will get back together, sometime soon; having grown older, wiser, and a little more cognizant of what we can and can’t do for each other. Maybe it isn’t over after all.
Hey music. How’s it going. I know it’s been a while… is this weird? Yeah, I don’t really know where to start either.