An Eye On Culture
Music Can Be Home Too
Published: Sunday, September 16, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
As I begin the first semester of my last year at Boston College and reflect on the time I spent here, one of the hardest things about the idea of college for me was coming to terms with leaving home. Not just the unmatchable NYC, but, more deeply, my home and my parents. Home is where the heart is, and I’m a homebody at heart. I’m an only child, so my parents and I formed a cute little trifecta in our cozy little place.
Place. It’s a word I’ve been hearing a lot lately. In my Memoir and Profile Writing class, we’re working on putting our subject in their proper “place,” using detailed descriptions of setting to articulate something profound about our subject, and how their surroundings either impact them or give us further insight into who they are. My philosophy classes throughout high school and college have always had the subtext of asking the deep, seemingly unanswerable question–what is my place in the world?
Music is beautiful because it is something that needs no place–you can bring an iPod anywhere and turn off your surrounding “place” and zone off. There is something truly magical, though, when music creates a connection with a specific place.
I can’t call myself a big Bruce Springsteen fan. There are about 10 songs in my Springsteen repertoire that I listen to semi-frequently, but, as you all know because you’re conscious, breathing people living at and attending BC, some people really love their Springsteen.
My mom is one of these people. I remember listening to Darkness on the Edge of Town in her car, right around the time I was old enough to finally sit in the front seat. I stared at that CD for probably a combined 12 hours in my younger days, looking at the young Boss’s expressionless, pouty-lipped face in that crisp white t-shirt. I probably had a little crush at the time.
Clearly, his music has been around me for a long time, so this is what leads me to the question–why can I not call myself one of those head-bobbing “Glory Days” lovers who listens to any Bruce anytime, anywhere with the windows rolled down?
Then I noticed an overarching theme. Most of these die-hard fans (excluding my mom) are from New Jersey. While I could spit a wide array of New York/New Jersey jokes right now, I’ll take the high road of respect. Even though Springsteen’s music might not be my cup of tea, I totally get the New Jersey obsession with him. All he talks about is place. The magic that must happen while listening to a superstar singing about all the places you hang out, riding the highways you take to work or school everyday is probably incredible. Just like a writer, this is how he cultivated an audience. He’s speaking to a very specific listener who understands what he’s saying and exactly where he’s coming from, right down to the street, the bar and the exit on the highway.
It’s not limited to The Boss. One of my close friends loves the beach, and even though her taste in music isn’t limited to songs that reference summer scenes, there is some sort of cohesive theme that unites these songs that comes back to the ideas of this place she loves so much: the sound or the occasional lyrical phrase.
Thinking more about this technique of evoking passion and feeling through place, I suddenly had a realization, an epiphany of sorts about something that had been plaguing me for quite some time—this is why country is so popular. While it’s torture to my ears, I see so many around me flock to country festivals, and turn up “Chicken Fried.” Even though it’s an entire genre, country artists do a great job of painting a picture similar to people’s experiences.
Clearly, since New York is far superior in every way (you must have known that was coming), I tried to rattle my brain for a similar artist. The closest I settled upon would have to be Simon & Garfunkel, whose love for NYC and descriptions of Queens neighborhoods, graffiti, and subway stations warm my heart and takes me back to the place I truly connect with.
Finding your place is a cliched phrase, but once you discover it in a song, album or artist, it’s something that should be cherished. You can bring your iPod wherever you go.