Friday, January 9, 2009

It gets me, every time it hits me

In the past ten years or so, I’ve undergone some pretty major changes in my life. Moving to the ‘Burgh, switching careers, getting back to church, getting married, having a child… It’s enough to make your head spin. Until you wonder what the next ten years might hold. Those last three changes were the biggies for sure. You can change homes and jobs over and over again and still feel the same inside. But you’d be hard-pressed to embrace Christianity, join your life with another person, or become a parent without being altered forever. And those types of monumental changes are the ones that cause you to re-examine your life, yourself, your pursuits and interests, your hobbies and habits all with new eyes.

I guess I started to ponder the things that I surrounded myself with after being at our church for a couple of years. By then, the husband and I knew we were committed to this path, that we’d be staying the course, and that it would require some changes in the way we lived and spent time. We went through books and magazines we’d accumulated, through artwork and collections in general, and we began to sort out the not-so-wholesome things and remove them from our midst.

Some things were easy to toss; others, not so. (Of course, I had no trouble making “toss” recommendations to my husband. Tee hee hee.) But as time passed, we freed ourselves of the items that didn’t feel quite right anymore. There wasn’t a huge amount of undesirables that were sent away, but it was enough that we felt we’d made the effort. Whew, we were good people again.

And then, we decided to try to reproduce. Pregnancy resulted. Then childbirth.

An entirely new level of sorting began. And I’m not talking just about childproofing our house and placing breakable items on high shelves; I’m talking about reconsidering just about every material possession that had come into our home. Any piece that had been riding on the fence as far as acceptability suddenly fell off and hit the ground. And mostly, it was music choices—often from years before we’d married.

Music was hard for me. I love music. Music has shaped who I am and how I handle stress, has maybe even affected how I relate to people and how I form thoughts. And it’s so deeply connected to times in my life, to periods of growth, to experiences that I both cherish and shudder to recall—as it is for all of us. It’s ingrained in my memories of life. To toss out certain pieces of music felt like tossing out a piece of myself.

I got rid of a few CDs and a lot of cassettes (remember those?) that had seen a lot of wear, but not so much recently for a variety of reasons. And I tried to kindle self-interest in good Christian music, and some pop music that was harmless and somewhat palatable. I really did try. And I found a handful of choices that I’ve continued to enjoy since then, music that is both quality listening and has nothing questionable about it; music that causes me absolutely no qualms when my little son listens to it.

But I never really got into a lot of that type of music. And I will confess; I squirreled away part of my old CD collection, locked it in the dark recesses of the stereo cupboard. And I’ll tell you this, too: the local rock ‘n roll station still has a place on my car’s programmed radio channels, even though the DJs are often foul-mouthed and utterly inappropriate for adults, let alone for kids. And I’ll tell you why this is so—and it gets me, every time it hits me—I’ve got a rock ‘n roll heart. (Thanks, Clapton.)

I still hold Led Zeppelin dear. I can’t help it. They are simply genius. They are so talented, so diverse, so amazingly capable of expressing, in guitar licks and melodies, music that matches every one of my moods. I know, I know—some of their songs are about subjects that I hope never to tackle with my kid. I know some of them are overtly flirting with undertones I should eschew. I know. But Page’s handiwork, oh my. And Plant’s voice, from gravely murmuring to heartfelt shrieking, covers it all. Those guys blow me away. And I felt a little pang in my heart when I sold one of my Red Hot Chili Peppers albums. I am fully cognizant that those silly boys, in younger years, performed part of a concert wearing only socks on certain appendages. That’s bizarre, and kind of sick, and probably illegal. I know that. But no one plays the bass like Flea. No one.

I mean, it’s not a big shock, the subject matter of some of these songs. One definition of the very phrase “rock and roll” is a thinly veiled reference to a certain act—did you know that? (Read more here.) I believe it was a phrase among the African-American community in the 50s, possibly earlier. BUT I also know that some of that music is about the same stuff all music is about: love, longing, joy, playful fun, feeling pain and loneliness and melancholia.

So, the other day, when Marcus asked specifically to hear a song with just drums, I dug into the lower shelf of the CD collection and pulled out “Moby Dick/Bonzo’s Montreax” by none other than Led Z. It’s super-heavy on drums, has some great drum solos, and features a heavy guitar as well. Did my little boy like it? At first. Then he grew tired of it, and told me quite clearly when he’d heard enough. So I stopped it—and forced him instead to listen to part of “Fool in the Rain.” Amazing song, with incredibly complex time changes throughout… I dare you to sit still while you listen. He liked it all right. And then we turned on WQED radio again.

And I don’t care. I’m not sorry. I cannot turn away from true musicality even when some of the related material delves into less savory territory—I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I will not forsake great art and a trip to the museum simply because there are a few paintings of nudes mixed in, and I will not forsake all great rock music in spite of the fact that some of the artists dally in some questionable lyrics. Now, hear me: if the lyrics are awful? Disgusting? If they incite killing or violence or senseless uprisings or sacrilege? Of course I’ll turn them off, ban them from my collection. I don’t want anything in our home that encourages or leaves doors open for the enemy of man.

But I will also pull out a song with all drums when the occasion calls for it. Oh, I’ll keep some good gospel mixes in the cupboard, even though I’ll likely give away a lot of the more “pop-py” stuff if it comes my way. The classical greats will always have a place in our home, along with some cool jazz, some oldies… and they'll coexist with some wonderful rockin’ tunes. I can love Jesus and still love some rock ‘n roll. Both of them move me; One, to be a better person, and the other? To move myself off the couch.


71crush said...

I'm puzzled why you had to throw out any music at all just b/c you were having a kid. Yes you cant listen to it all (hence why I hide the Pulp Fiction cd ) but why get rid of it if you love it. Years will fly by and believe it or not your kids may want to listen to it. My kids love The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Doors now. Yes, some of the lyrics are questionable. Who cares? Its great art, like you say.(and the lyrics are no worse than what teens are hearing at school on a daily basis ) Should we protect them from it all? no way, how will they ever be able to face the real world if they arent given little doses of things. Where does it say in the bible you cant listen to music?
Dont give up everything...:( that would be sad.

Mel said...

I did get rid of my Pulp Fiction soundtrack--b/c of the language in between the tracks. But listening to it opened my eyes to Al Green's greatness, the much cooler early days of Kool and the Gang, Dusty Springfield, etc. So I can always find their work on separate collections, w/o the movie bits. And I kept The Beatles stuff, and I kept one Red Hot Chilis collection b/c the questionable stuff was not there. Like I said, I kept a lot. But some of it I did let go, because I had doubts about its merits even though I had liked it at one time. And a few things, when I listened nowadays, just kind of gave me the creeps. I realize we can't protect kids from everything forever--but we can make our homes a sanctuary of sounds and sights that are safe and will set a good standard to follow. We enjoyed that as kids, I think, and I appreciated it even when I mocked it as a smarty-pants teen.

And the Bible doesn't say you can't listen to music that I know of, but it does say this:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
-Phil. 4:8-9

Anonymous said...

Like I tell my kids in class when we study Ancient Greece - the people in the statues aren't "Naked," they're "Nude." Nude is classy and artistic, naked isn't. LOL I put some music and movies aside when my kids were smaller, but they always ended up with the awful stuff sooner or later. And, I must confess... there are days when Marilyn Manson's "This is the new shit" just speaks to me.... Sometimes life is coarse and foul and crappy, and those songs reflect such.

Mel said...

I am fully aware that my kiddo will find the foul stuff, sooner than I'd like--I certainly was able to sniff it out, as all kids are. I'm not that foolish. ; ) but I'd rather he uncover out in "the world" and not in our small world. don't worry, he's being exposed to a variety of things, and not all spotless. I want him to have survival techniques based in reality.

sorry, marilyn manson hasn't spoken to me yet. he'd fall into the category of stuff that "gives me the creeps."