Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Seasonal Affective Music

I have Seasonal Affective Music Disorder. That is, depending on the season I find myself drawn to certain types of music, as if the very functions of my physiology were dependent on hearing the right tunes at the right time. As selections that were recently warmed by hours in the CD player suddenly become anachronistic, old favorites from deep in the catalog find their way into the sun or snow to be reborn for another four months of play, and I heave a sigh of relief.

Every spring and fall I feel this the most intensely. The transitional seasons are my favorites. I think my personality of extremes, call me a Libra if you will, causes me to admire these seasons for their mildness and temperance. I long to be like them but I cannot, except in my being ephemeral. So I listen to Jethro Tull.

There is nothing like a Song from the Wood to caress my ears as leaves start to twist and twirl toward the earth in time to disjointed but perfectly mathematical flute solos. No matter the season, Tull's incredibly complex time signatures and song structures (and brilliant lyrics) are cause for joy. They have songs that are in 7/12 time. Ian Andersen mentioned another even more flabbergasting time signature at a show I saw on my birthday, last October. I can't even remember the two numbers, they seemed so unlikely (I think there was a 15 involved!). Gleeful music math aside, there is something in these songs that makes me wonder if the music is describing the first fleck of snow that spins toward my windowsill or if the music is what made it happen.

Jack-In-The-Green Commands Summer: "Begin!"

Springtime Tull is more uplifting than the pensive autumn selections. Cup of Wonder makes May Day seem like the best holiday in the year. On the first warm day I've found myself sitting in the car, not going in the house or the store, but just sitting with the windows down and the doors open clapping along with the expertly timed claps (and usually missing a few) and wondering how anything could ever feel more springlike. Soon the happy flutes and Solstice Bells ring in the summer, and Tull goes back into the CD visor until October comes again.

In summer, John Fogerty is my boyfriend. The heat brings out my summer extremes - earthy, passionate, sometimes depressed, always on. And I always look back to my roots in summer. As a proud southerner and an active liberal, the two sides of my passion are brought together seamlessly in Creedence Clearwater Revival's protest songs. Fortunate Son is a great windows-down blarer - and I don't care who thinks I'm playing country. Some songs are just great for washing the car (or nowadays, scrubbing down the bike).

Take me home, boys.

Some nights I want to bawl from heartache at the childhood summer scenes brought to mind by Fogerty's drawling and wailing on songs like Green River and Up Around the Bend. I am made whole by the possibilities of good old folk who care about peace and social causes, and simultaneously destroyed by the unwelcome realization that even if I did go home, nothing would ever be the same. Summer is a difficult season.

Winter is my least favorite season now that I live in a cold place. What I do welcome about it is time for introspection and time to work on my art and myself. I get into very "heady" music I'd call it in the wintertime. Progressive rock is usually at the top of the playslist -- anything with multiple movements, curious mixes of synthesizers, guitars, and orchestral elements. And organs. I must have my organ solos. Yes and Moody Blues are my number one winter bands.

"It's winter and we're bloody Moody!"

Although I like winter and all its trappings (I have an immense scarf collection) I start to collapse in on myself when it's so cold I can't go outside. The music distracts and helps me through.

Sometimes a change of weather within a season is enough to dig out a neglected track. It's raining heavily today. When I leave work I'll check the wind and sniff the air to see if Fogerty will keep his coveted spot in the CD player. ELO, Sandy Denny, and even J.S. Bach have all been quietly waiting their turn.

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