April 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
Every day, like many people, I wake up with a song in my head and follow along with what’s left of my singing voice and stumble into the kitchen for a cup of coffee that Andrew in his completely wondrous pattern of living has set to go off at the same time every morning, which is too early. In trying to mine this song-in-the-head phenomenon for meaning and/or occult properties (is the song a version of a prediction?) — and after many, many years of it — I haven’t been able to figure where the songs are coming from or what they’re trying to tell me. And because it’s music, I don’t ask questions. Music is like unconditional love, and songs — I don’t think — are like dreams which all feel like a call to action as much as a personal synthesis of hope and fear. A song doesn’t want you to do anything except listen to its being.
A lot of the songs in my head are literal — i.e., they seem to be triggered by a word or set of words that I heard on the radio (in a speech or report from the street), or on television. Or they may be literal in terms of objects recently observed: cars, flowers, little boxes, little boxes. A lot of them are love songs because I love somebody. Or it can be a song about what the day literally represents in time. “You Must Remember Spring” might be in my head on the first day of it, for example, embarrassingly. The only annoying fact that a lovely habit of song in the head can carry inside its secret is trying to figure out how a song I hate or never even think of ever got in there. Of course, it’s the over-saturation of that song, the stubbornness of a way too familiar chord progression; the playing on the radio, etc., etc., that forces some sort of sound mirror to capture the bad song and sing it back to me inside. But that bad song only reminds me that I’m a consumer when — in terms of music, anyway — I want to think of myself as a connoisseur.
And there is no music more fitting for a connoisseur than the music that Stephen Sondheim writes. His theater music (notice, please, I dodged show tunes) has been in my head on more mornings in my life than any other music. Of course, I’m a complete and overly ambitious advocate of his work, but there is something else, too, that I can’t put my finger on, that must be part of the reason “Every Day A Little Death” or “Pretty Women” or “Sooner or Later” gets broadcast to my brain at least once or twice a month. I don’t have a life that is in any way like the lives (desperate, many of them) Sondheim writes about. But the music — the way the music sounds — the syntax of the music — feels as though it recognizes something in my body and comes looking for it.
And here I am, in my being. It’s morning.
Of thee, I sing.