I have always been a music guy. It's kind of strange, considering my father seemingly doesn't want to hear anything that challenges him in any way, and my mother uses music for mostly background noise, but music has always played a special role in my heart.
Moreover, I have the cd collection to prove it. While my 1,000-1,200 cds pales in comparison to some (one friend in TX has, I think, around 20,000), it's still notable in size. Moreover, it's filled with disks that are more than just collections of songs, instead acting as emotional markers, evoking fragments, memories, and stories. This album was originally given to me (several copies ago, originally on cassette) by my first high school crush. I burned through several copies of this one while driving around and smoking cigarettes in high school. This one got me through my last bad breakup. I played this one for my now-wife on the first night she stayed over.
My collection also has cd copies of a lot of old albums which specifically prompt recall of key times when I was really young and first discovering my love of music. Every time I play Judas Priest's Sad Wings of Destiny, I think of my brother bringing home a vinyl copy from the base library. Motorhead's No Remorse makes me think of a recently deceased friend, who owned the leather-bound records. Metallica's Ride the Lightning reminds me of the shock and wonder of discovering something which so blatantly demolished every single rule of music I thought existed, a feeling which my current students (for whom Metallica has long been classic rock) can never understand. These disks in particular act more as markers of my musical experiences and knowledge...metamusic, if you will.
Apart from evoking these memories and stories, however, most of the albums still hold up as really good music. And whenever I realize that the soundtrack to my life also would work as contemporary artistic production, I feel that I've done something right, dedicating a large part of myself to music. It's also one of the reasons that I rarely get rid of anything, album-wise, and why I look down upon with scorn anyone who would trade in cds. Why would you get rid of a cherished memory in exchange for three dollars of store credit? No, keep everything, a part of me (one that clearly doesn't have to worry about storage space) cries.
Lately, though, my head's playback mechanism has been shifting towards the greatest hits of the past which, for one reason or another, don't reside in my collection. Yesterday, snippets of REO Speedwagon songs from when I was a nine year old jumped to the forefront. Today, while showering, it was April Wine, who I doubt I've actually heard in 25 years and haven't thought of in at least a decade. I'm expecting an onslaught of unowned classic rock to consume me this afternoon. Even as I write this, there's most certainly a part of my frontal cortex looking for an old Styx song to recycle.
I've been trying all morning to figure out what my head turning unwittingly has turned into a classic rock station, a format which I normally hate. While I recall April Wine as being enjoyable enough, they never played a role in any significant or memorable event other than vague recollections of idly watching MTV, back in the days the network actually lived up to its name and played music. Nor did they redefine how I thought about music. And I suspect that neither is it sentimentality, a trait that rarely plays a role in much of anything I do.
I'm sitting at the computer, hands on the keyboard. I should be doing any one of about a thousand tasks today (grading, e-mails, taxes), but instead, I mostly hear the guitar crash in "Just Between You and Me's" chorus. I can't explain how it got there or what it's doing to me. My only hope is that it is not signifying some inevitable mental decline into the world of nostalgia.
I've got too much still to do to think of the past in that way.