Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Steve Almond on Depressing Music

Right now I'm reading Steve Almond's Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life and loving it (I was going to wait for the paperback, but the Borders bankruptcy sale made the hardcover affordable). The book is basically about being a "Drooling Fanatic" (or "DF") of rock music. One thing about DFs, he says "is that we're chronically emotional people who have trouble accessing our emotions" [emphasis his].
In my own case -- though I suspect this is broadly true -- repression was our family religion. I didn't admit to anyone else that I was feeling sad or frightened or angry because I saw little hope of being regarded or soothed, and a good chance of being mocked. And so I started to hide these feelings from myself; they burrowed inward and took cover under a sarcastic bravado. When I wanted to numb myself out, I watched TV. But songs had the opposite effect. They became a secret passageway to emotion, a way of locating what I was feeling before I entirely understood it myself.
This passage reminds me of so many times in my life when I've listened to certain songs -- not necessarily sad songs, per se, but emotion-packed songs --  just to reassure myself that I could still cry, that I could still connect with human emotions. I rarely cry in real life, except when something is very personal. Although 9/11 was a monumentally sad event, I never shed a tear over it. But whenever I hear Bruce Springsteen's "Into the Fire", a song about 9/11, I cry (even then I wonder whether my reaction would be so strong were I not married to a police officer).

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