[Set-up] Okay, the Writing 101 folks are definitely on a roll with their advocacy of free-writing. Today’s prompt (Day 3!) is partly about a topic, but it’s mostly about committing yourself to a daily, full-out free-writing practice, a la Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones — no stopping, no editing, just allowing yourself to lose control and get beyond the self-censoring into the marrow of things.
Now, I don’t necessarily have a complaint against this notion in the abstract (says she with the daily morning pages/soul writing practice). I’m less convinced about my willingness to post that level of unexpurgated free-write out for all to see. For me, the thing about free-writing is exactly the way it functions as a safe space to be messy and uncontrolled and just blurt out every molecule, knowing that you can then build on the raw passion and bring in craft and shape and structure. (Do you know how hard Kerouac worked to craft that “spontaneous voice” in On the Road?!?)
But anyhow, I’m going to play the good student, set my timer for 15 minutes and type like a madwoman (in the attic?) on the topic at hand. After that, I’ll decide whether to hit “publish” or to save the free-write content as a private artifact while shaping a public blog-post.
Oh, and the topic? “Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?” [/Set-up]
This is as unfair a question as you could possibly ask. Only three? You have got to be kidding me. With as important as music has been in my life, the idea of narrowing my life down to a jukebox with only three 45s in it is simply ludicrous.
But here’s a first thought. “Carol of the Birds” — French, maybe 14th or 15th century? It was the first time I sang a solo in a choir/stage performance. 3rd grade (we were Brasil at the time, not that that’s a pertinent detail), preparing for the Christmas concert. This was back in the days that schools still had music programs, so a Christmas concert was a regular kind of event. And the full “choir” — elementary classes — sang verses 1 and 3, with then little old me singing verse two. I honestly can’t remember at this distance whether there was an audition, whether I was just selected, whether I shared the solo with another girl. I just remember it being the first chance I really sang on my own in a public performance, and, for better and for worse, that was the start of the many years of singing and performing I have had to this day. With the love of music and expression and also all the greedy ego-desire for the spotlight and for acknowledgement. It’s such an obscure little carol that I have at least one CD in my holiday music collection that I keep primarily because it has a version of that carol on it. (Not that the rest of the CD sucks, it’s just a generally unexceptional playlist and performance style. But then this one song with all the depth of personal meaning and memory it inspires for me.)
During all my reading around the Isla Vista murders, I somehow stumbled across an article about Tori Amos and her song “Me and a Gun,” and the way it’s served as a galvanizing inspiration for women to share their own stories of sexual assault and sexual violence. Having said that and implied I might be writing my own similar thing, I’m actually going to take a slight left turn and say that the Tori Amos song that’s ringing in my head since that story is actually “Silent all These Years.” It has some of the same tone of surviving past traumas and finding one’s voice. Which are both things that speak pretty deeply to me. Thinking of the ways I’ve talked, at least obliquely, at some of my past patterns of keeping myself contained and hidden, and the stumbling efforts I take now and again to find ways to speak the truth. (I hate saying the phrase “my truth” because it has a bit of self-indulgent “new age” tone to it. Like, let me inform you about MY truth and therefore ignore your lived experience and perspective. Though saying some thing is baldly THE truth doesn’t really do any better at ALL to ease the idea of denying other perspectives and experiences.) Anyhow, “I’ve been here, silent all these years” is ringing in my mind’s ear. I was here all along. Keeping silent, but I was here all along.
And why don’t I go the somewhat cliched route and talk about a wedding song? Our first dance was to Jason Mraz’s — what the hell is the title? this is fucking embarrassing. I can hear the tune in my head.
Okay shift. Let’s think about “Here Comes the Sun” — the James Taylor/Yo-Yo Ma arrangement that was the inspiration for our wedding musicians (flute and guitar) for a key moment in the ceremony: taking two roses from separate vases and then putting them in a vase together to signifying the joining and interweaving of two lives into one. Simple and somewhat cliche, and at some level you’d kind of expect it to be a little silly, since we’d been living together for 5 years or so by the time the wedding day rolled around. And yet this simple piece of ritual was incredibly moving and meaningful, and then as we stood holding each other’s hands and there was still a whole lot of song left to listen two, both Mr. Mezzo and I came close to finally losing our cool and becoming soggy weeping-with-joy sorts of messes.
And that’s a good stall tactic, but I still can’t remember the Mraz song.
“Oh you done done me [. . . ] so hot that I melted.” Trying frantically to come up with more of the lyrics so I could maybe get my way to the title. This is really embarrassing. Anyhow, whenever we hear the song come on the radio, we normally dance for a t least a few seconds’ time. We’ve done that in grocery stores, in the middle of cooking, all kinds of unexpected moments and places. So I guess it’s not the title or the words that are most important to me. It’s that feeling of hearing the particular lilt of rhythm and melody and then celebrating.
[Post mortem] I am constitutionally unable to send this out into the world without at least correcting the spelling errors — because otherwise, I’m not so sure this would even be intelligible as English. Beyond that, I’m going to let this go up as-is, not especially ‘cos I’m thrilled about it but because it’s an insanely busy week at work. Started editing at 4 AM this morning, will have to do the same tomorrow, so there’s just not enough awake minutes left in my system for me to come up with a better alternative.
Oh? And here’s the song I blanked on. Unsurprisingly, the title came back to me within 90 seconds of that damn buzzer ringing….