Music Down Memory Lane

The current climate in BC’s public education sector is  fraught with emotion, tension, and conflict.  As I look  around for some words of comfort, here’s what comes to mind:

 “Don’t worry about a thing, 

‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right. 

Singin’: “Don’t worry about a thing, 

‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right!” 

                Bob Marley, Three Little Birds

A song by Bob Marley who, in addition to sharing his music with the world, played an integral role in resolving the crisis in Jamaican politics many years ago.  By thinking of song and music, I’m not trivializing the contentious issues we face.  I’m recognizing the way in which music helps us.  

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Music is central to our lived experience, individually and collectively. It may have even been a precursor to spoken language.  Our cave ancestors likely communicated with rhythm and percussion long before they could yell out, “Run for your lives!  Saber-tooth on the loose!”

Like smell or taste, sound can carry us down memory lane.  It’s as if we each have a soundtrack to our lives.

As a pre-teen living in Beirut, I idolized Fairuz. There are many songs I associate with her, but one that has lasted with me, even as I’ve lost my fluency in Arabic, is a childhood chant from a decades-old movie which I’ve never seen.  Did my grandmother teach me the words to the chorus? I don’t remember, but listening to it now, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLb-n6OUfyk takes me back to a time — which may sound cliché — of innocence.  It was before the Lebanese civil war which started in 1974.  It was also the year we moved to Vancouver and I had to leave my family, my friends, all I’d known for the past five years, behind.

Thinking back to my high school years in West Vancouver is … well, let’s just say I prefer not to.  Although a fluent English speaker and a capable student, I struggled to establish friendships in a new and different cultural environment.  While Grade 8 went smoothly enough, Grade 9 was one of social isolation and misery.  I think of it as my year of tears.  From then through to graduation I continued in my role as a nerdy misfit, but I did find a circle of friends in Grade 10 which helped me tremendously.  I recall many songs from this era, but Meatloaf’s album Bat Out of Hell stands out.  My friend, my guardian angel at the time and with whom I regret losing touch, had bought the record (yes, it was the days of vinyl!).  We’d sit in her room listening to the songs and it likely won’t surprise you that Paradise by the Dashboard Light occasioned much giggling — we were teenage girls! — and was played over and over and over again.

I’ve been thinking about music a lot lately as I watch my son discover the soundtrack to his life.  I hadn’t expected his vibe to be so alternative and I believe that may be more a reflection of the paternal influence in his life!  I may have introduced him to pop, musical theatre, and classical, but he’s introduced me to the charms of Laurie Anderson (which I have to admit elude me somewhat), Moby, Brian Eno, David Byrne, and Janelle Monaé amongst others. For our visit to Tofino during spring break, he was in charge of the playlists for our drive over and our evenings in. 

And because I can’t stay away from education for too long, let me just say I don’t think there’s enough music in our schools although where there is music, fantastic work is being done by educators.  I believe this is true of the arts in general: they are in danger of being underrepresented, on a general basis, in our curricula and the practice of day-to-day teaching and learning.

Why do I think this is an issue?

Because the arts, music and others, transport us beyond the limits of our humanity.  They are universal, they are boundless, and they are the greatest expression of our potential to be creative, to create.

Music and art help us to defy gravity. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g4ekwTd6Ig 

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