On music and memory

I have a sonic memory. All the important days in my life are shelved as visual and auditory archives in my brain, little PowerPoint slideshows with accompanying soundtracks that change color slightly over time. My dreams often include a single song, played from start to finish on repeat until I wake up. Last summer's road trip to New York is best characterized by the Presidents of the United States of America's classic "Tiki God." My nine month stay in Fuengirola, Spain is equal parts Julieta Venegas' "Me Voy," Ojo de Brujo's "El Confort no Reconforta," and (weirdly) the Black Eyed Peas' "The Boogie That Be." Without question, my diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is paired with the Dave Matthews Band's "The Space Between." Incidentally, I no longer like that band.

This summer is marked by two songs, the first being MGMT's "Kids." I'd never heard their music until the dance party that marked the last night of the Tin House workshop. We were crowded into the student center on the Reed campus, and Ryan had just flown in after a week away. I was high on all the right things--new friends, travel plans, that superspecial excitement that means it is time to write, and time to read. The minute the song came on, I swore I'd heard it before, though not out loud. It was the pulse of something I couldn't quite put my finger on.

One month later, I requested this song at my brother's wedding. And then Dana the deejay put on LCD Soundsystem's Great Release, my second song for the summer. We were swirled deep within the belly of our neighborhood community center, a pulsing mass of bridesmaids and groomsmen, friends, family. The circle grew tight, with Josh and Shelby at its center, foreheads touching. The intensity of the music built just as the group edged in closer and closer, shoulder to shoulder, shuffling and jumping and clapping and shouting their names. And the sheer joy of it all defied sentimentality; this is no ordinary couple. What's happened there was something that is rare and refined, something we'd all be lucky to have ourselves someday. The song said all that, but the people said it too, looking back over the moonlit lawn, our eyes falling on all the trees we grew up climbing and all the people we grew up loving. There's that sense that men and women fall in love all the time, that sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't, and the ones that do find themselves wound up in tight circles, cushioned by a living, breathing community.

One of my professors believes that all weddings are trite affairs, that in the end we cry for all the same reasons, and none of them original. But maybe that's okay. Maybe all it takes is one song to bring us back to that space, that night, those people, that moon. Maybe what makes it original is what we as listeners, as friends, as family, bring to the music. Maybe that's why, days later, the song still remains in my brain late at night, a reminder that all the important days have multiple dimensions.