October 29, 2008

Finding Ourselves in the Music We Love

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In many ways, music defines us. In other ways, it helps us to be someone entirely different, to be all that we can’t be, if you will. One might look at the ways we use music to demonstrate who we want to be, or the ways in which a country singer’s music actually fits in with the person they are. I think I might even go so far as to say my music choices have reflected the evolution of my persona. Memory lane, here we come.
Let’s start with middle school, all of which I will lump together into one long, tumultuous period of time. Here, I embraced two “genres” of music: band (as in trombone, conductor, super-nerds; not rockin’ the bass, or what have you) and pop. I played in the regular band, the select “Bio Band,” the voluntary after-school jazz band, marching band, the choir, the jazz choir, took piano lessons, participated in all-county bands every year and, in eighth grade, even got the prestigious invite to the all-state band. (Eighth trombone out of nine. Only girl though … woot.) Wow, that list sounds incredible to me now. In any case, this was me as a geek.
The pop music represented something entirely different — the usual teenage girl desire to be desperately cool. I hung out with the kids who were supposedly “cool,” listened to the mix CD Kelly Minor made me over and over and over and jumped at the invite to Mikey Meskill’s 13th birthday party (spin-the-bottle included). Gee whiz, that number also seems ridiculous. Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Smash Mouth, that song about “it wasn’t me,” “H to the Izzo,” which I now realize might be one of the worst songs ever made, even counting “Who Let the Dogs Out?”
Anyway, quick recap — middle school: Julia equals classic music at heart, but yearning to be Britney-chic.
Ok, we move on to freshman year. I have a new group of friends — we’ll call them the intelligentsia, as opposed to the “cool kids.” I like them, and they are, in fact, all still my friends. But I’m still working on defining myself, finding my place, cliché, cliché, etc. And I’m dating a senior, who turns out not to be the prince charming I’d imagined. Who would’ve guessed?
My music? Emo. Full-on Dashboard Confessional. My friends and I would actually sing it together from a line of ski lift seats at Greek Peak. “It’s colder than it ought to be in March / and I still got a day or two ahead of me / ’til I’ll be heading home / into your arms again.” Somehow seems fitting, don’t you think?
Sophomore year is punk. My new, age-appropriate boyfriend’s band has starting playing a few shoddily-populated shows, and though they are far from punk, a lot of the bands they end up playing with are. I decide to rock it. Short, spiky haircut, dark eyeliner, spiky jewelry (lots of it). I have pictures to prove this.
Music? You guessed it. Punk. But not real punk; more like Good Charlotte punk — Fallout Boy, the Starting Line. So how does this fit into my personality? Again, it was about embracing something I wasn’t — the tough girl. Not in the “I-punch-guys-in-the-balls” sense, but in the hard, unemotional, tomboy exterior I hoped to exude. Now, tomboy is still part of who I am — I love snowboarding with the guys — but trying to trick myself into being unemotional didn’t last long.
Following my punk phase was a long and continuing move into indie/alternative sounds, though I pride myself on not being the pretentious lister of many bands you’ve never heard of (ahem — Uzi and Ari, please listen to them). I like this genre. I’m not a mainstream girl. Frat parties and sorority slope day t-shirts have never been for me. I could care less about your apple-bottom jeans. The music fits my wish to be just a little bit alternative (oh-so-clichéd, but I finally know who I am), as well as my undying love of converse, skinny jeans and pashmina scarves. (See me, four out of five days a week.)
My most recent music acquisition, in addition to indie, has been folk music, which fits perfectly with my new CALs-ian lifestyle. Birkenstocks, home-grown veggies, Cornell Habitat, just generally saving the world. Love it.
To wrap this up on a sentimental note (I told you I couldn’t do unemotional), I’d like to point out how music also brings people together, even as it helps to define the individual. Many of you may remember the moment during halftime of the homecoming football game this year when the marching band played the alma mater. I have to say I don’t know the words, but that was an awesome moment. The entire stadium (and that’s barely an exaggeration) stood up, linked arms and swayed. Some more knowledgable than I actually sang the words.
Let me say again how awesome that was. I love Cornell, and that moment showed me that there’s solidarity to that sentiment.