Friday, February 3, 2012

Time and Space Curriculum

I was taking a walk through the old neighborhood and out spilled Jimm's bouquet of albums released between early October 1979 and early October 1980:

  • David Bowie: Scary Monsters

  • The B-52's: Wild Planet

  • The Boomtown Rats: The Fine Art Of Surfacing

  • The Clash: London Calling

  • Elvis Costello: Get Happy | Taking Liberties (only the 9 songs not released prior to Oct. 1979)

  • The English Beat: I Just Can't Stop It

  • Marianne Faithful: Broken English

  • The Police: Reggatta De Blanc | Zenyatta Mondatta

  • The Pretenders: The Pretenders (first album)

  • Paul Simon: One-Trick Pony (one of his best, though nobody but me thinks so)

  • The Specials: The Specials (first album)

  • Squeeze: Argybargy

  • Talking Heads: Remain In Light

  • X: Los Angeles (first album)

  • XTC: Black Sea

This block party rocked with a resonance that made all the other musical enclaves wish they could move to this neighborhood. OK. At least bid up the price of the late nineties tribute album in some discovered exurban-gated-ghetto league.

This notion of a stroll around the time block rings more true than my first piece of direct AARP mail that came this week. The proximity of Jimm's dream list occupies the same cul-de-sac as a framework suggested to me by fellow Hampshirite Arthur Simons. The contextual underpinnings of Simons' theory lines: (1) his living room, (2) this post, and, (3) the brimming tidal pools of his flash brain floods.

Simons posits that a place visited in childhood lies between two locations. Our sense of adult place lies between the intersection of two or more memories. In essence the first path is commuter-induced bike, car, stroller, or transit travel. The other is memory-powered time travel whether your propulsion is via jet pack or propeller head.

A bunch of corollaries spring from this vantage:

  1. "Tiny" playgrounds we remember as major theme parks --
    Is that because we're physically larger or because the memories  never shrank but continued to satiate on these spongy vibes?

  2. The first legs of trips seeming to take twice as long as the returning trip --
    Is it that the certainty of the way back closes the perceived distance?

  3. We're all too aware of the flash forward effect of middle age that lends our earliest imaginings their engulfing stature --
    i.e. the advent of the web until now captures fewer cultural shifts than say the heyday Beatles between haircuts.

I arrive at three conclusions from these time bubbles of musical release formulas:

  1. The return trip is instantaneous while the slog up the '79-80 hill takes an eternity. ("It'll be alright.")

  2. That proximity of inspirations is as much a "place" as any physical landmark, (i.e. we frequented the same musical neighborhoods as teens and that is a basis for endless conjecture and jousting).

  3. Big memories take up lots of room -- the further the visitation distance, the bulkier they get.

The curbside appeal of clustering albums into timelines is boundless and reveals ...

  • What our musical heroes were listening to at the time -- jamming frequencies factor

  • What we were in the act of sweating through or celebrating at the time -- soundtrack of our lives appeal

  • What about our childhoods has swelled to larger-than-life stature and what deserves to shrivel and die -- always a roll of the musical dice we are willing to rock

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Release Party Push back

Garo however, was having none of this -- at least the part about appropriating our back yard vanity checks as signifying any real inflections, cultural shifts, or accumulated post collective event wisdom:

"I admit that as much I love wallowing in the filth of my own past, I generally try to steer clear of such list-o-mania. An excellent period it was (particularly in the sceptr'd isle), but of course we'd all think that; it's when we were paying the most attention. We bought albums the moment they arrived in stores, and we knew what it was up against. (Or as Dish used to put it: My God, it's Thursday! Isn't it time for a new Donna Summer album??)"

Garo equated the ubiquity of distribution with the commoditization of experience:

"Now  music arrives to (most of) us after it's been long-vetted by YouTube users, radio stations, Saturday Night Live bookers, and a topsoil of people much younger than us at least 20 feet deep. By the time we receive it, it's been out for months, maybe years; we're therefore no more able to connect it to a specific time and place and zeitgeist than we are to keep straight the various Justins and Selenas and hyphenated rapper sobriquets that buzz around us like lighters at a Blue Oyster Cult concert."

Me knowing that Garo never ran off to join any Blue Oyster cults allows me to duck behind my own naivete.

And whether we opt for Jimm's elevated lanes of memory or Garo's mania cross-offs, I still have appointments to keep. Increasingly the place and time are one because the place I'm headed IS that stitch in time. And that time is not waiting in line for next Thursday's Donna Summer or Ruby Tuesday's Edgar Winter. That all expenses paid vacation knows every rhyme and season. And that's the commiseration of the tunes in our heads and the songs that pulse to the hearts we've developed to contain and express those sounds.

The time-lines are a map. And the only thing more fun than plotting future trips is getting lost completely. Yesterday and tomorrow can move into my musical neighborhood any time they like.

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