I remember blistering hot summer days, 8 years old, feeling as though boredom really could cause death, and wandering into the computer room in hopes of finding the torn brown office chair vacant. Whenever it was I’d scramble my tan body in, close the door, and rifle through the cd-roms until I found Encarta ‘95 and pop it in the drive. Remember Encarta? Pre-internet, pre-wikipedia, post encyclopedia, this huge database that contained smatterings of everything. I loved it. I don’t know if it was me trying to find different answers to all the questions I’d ask my parents which they answered in ways I didn’t want to be true (ie: can stuffed animals talk? is there magic? what happened to unicorns…etc).
I remember one particular afternoon I had put in Encarta and decided today I was going to learn about music. Not the piano music I had to practice—the Classical, the Beethovens and Bachs—but the radio music. All the kind my parents didn’t keep in their house. So what did I do? Typed in “Rock and Roll” of course. I think there was a timeline that popped up and there were so many names I’d never heard before (Buddy Holly? is that really someone’s name?). I first clicked on Elvis Presley because my mom had such a strong aversion to him that I didn’t understand but deeply intrigued me. The page on Elvis would load and there was this large picture of him with a little play button beneath. I clicked it and heard about 15-20 seconds of “Heartbreak Hotel,” another one played “Jailhouse Rock,” and another “You Ain’t Nothin But a Hound Dog.” I was riveted and kept the speakers low so my mother couldn’t hear. I don’t know that I necessarily loved the music but I loved the thrill of listening to something so ‘forbidden.’
Needless to say I got a little bored and had to find someone else. I clicked on David Bowie. I don’t remember if I’d heard of him before or if he just intrigued me but he had only one song on his page, “Changes.” Just a 15-20 second blip but I kept playing it over and over and over. It was new. It wasn’t the Beatles or James Taylor or Paul McCartney and I really, really liked it. Then I found Zeppelin. a 15 second sample was nowhere near enough to thrive on. Why wasn't this in my parent's musical library? Isn't this their generation? Unfortunately Encarta ’95 didn’t get too in-depth and I didn’t get too far being at the mercy of parents and their engrained biases toward music. But, it was a start.
I remember getting so deeply invested in bands. Buying their albums and listening to them all the way through, curious the first time through, in love by the second or third time. I remember my obsession with the Doors. I even led myself to believe that Jim Morrison was still alive somewhere after extensively researching the subject (containing one too many fan-sites); this belief lasted approximately one week—as most things do at age fifteen. I remember Radiohead’s Bends album coaxing me in, Kid A driving me home at night from work, OK Computer blowing my mind. Working on my high school art projects listening to Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights on repeat. Death Cab on the morning drives to school. New Noise in summer. Music was such a definition for identity. and it resounded deeper than blood. and I think this happens to everyone.
and I hate that I can’t find that anymore.
Maybe it’s just because I’ve grown a thicker skin to life. But sunsets still leave me in awe, I still get enraptured by blossoms in spring, by the colors in fall. Is it because so much has become so ridiculously accessible that I’m left to this blasé feeling? Think about it, you can sample music so easily and just click, download and listen to it on your ipod in a matter of minutes, seconds. And everyone has access to the internet, everyone has a band, everyone. I miss the tangible.
Yes there are good things about the accessibility. So many high school garage bands who would otherwise go unheard of can have a shot but at the same time: so many high school garage bands can have a shot. I feel so overly bombarded with sounds; sounds that should be new but all are sounding the same, so prosaic. I tried listening to this intern list on npr of all these obscure bands and was pumped to give them a shot but then—45 minutes later—I was left feeling very sad, very confused.
It gives me a sort of identity crisis. How can I not know if I like a band or not? When did this happen? I remember hearing—really hearing—Ruby Tuesday for the first time and feeling like my blood was made of honey, life stopped, it was real and this song, this sound existed, made sense. Zeppelin’s Going to California…I don’t even know where to begin. Where has that gone? I want to be lambasted by a song again, by an album, by a band. Is that possible anymore?
And this goes deeper than music. All the books to choose from, all the art, all the blogs, all the clothes, all the homes. Everything feels so prescribed. Have you seen a neighborhood lately? I mean, I know this isn’t a new idea—suburbs have been suffocating individuality for ages. I’ve always been one who knows what I want and what I like and been very stubborn about it so this music boredom has hit me in the gut and I don’t know what to do except to feel cheated in some way. I want to go back to those bored summer days, discovering Bowie and Zeppelin but maybe turning the volume up a little more this time.