I’m not a musician, but my life has had a great soundtrack, starting in the mid/late 1960s when the likes of Simon & Garfunkel and Dylan (whose songs to this day I generally prefer performed by someone other than Dylan) were staples on AM radio. With the advent of Covid-19, that soundtrack faded into the background, not because I turned down the volume but because, well, circumstances conspired . . .
- Covid made it impossible for us to gather together and sing.
- During the Trump administration, I’ve become a big fan of podcasts, among them Deep State Radio, Preet Bharara’s Stay Tuned and then Cafe Insider (with Anne Milgram), Amicus with Dahlia Lithwick, and anything from Crooked Media. Spoken words pushed music aside, even though I can’t listen to spoken words when I’m editing but I often listen to music.
- Matilda, the new laptop I bought with my “stimulus check” last spring, doesn’t have a CD/DVD player.
- The CD changer on my old, bought-used Bose radio/CD player was getting funkier and funkier.
- Music rarely figures in the demos and rallies I participate in, and my political compañeras either aren’t a musical bunch or they’ve been keeping it under wraps the way I have.
Taken one by one, these are all excuses rather than reasons, but taken together, and combined with [euphemism alert!] Everything Else That Was Going On, they pushed music to the margins of my life.
However, song was pushing its way up through desert, almost from the beginning. Somehow I learned (email list?) that Susan Robbins of Libana was doing regular Zoom sings for women. According to my checkbook, I went to my first one in late May or early June. Susan teaches chants, rounds, and other songs that aren’t hard to learn by ear; some of them I’ve known since my feminist community days. The downside of Zoom singing is that you can only see but not hear the other singers. This has an upside: you’re free to experiment with harmonies you might not have the nerve to attempt in others’ hearing.
The other big upside is that there’s no way I could travel to Boston every week or so to participate, and the attendees came from all around the country. Most of the Zoom sings attracted 30 to 35 participants. The Solstice Eve sing this past Sunday brought 120 of us together, including one singer from Italy, where it must have started at one or two in the morning. (The program was repeated on Monday night.)
When I set up my new laptop, all the cover images transferred from my iTunes folder, but the music files got lost — all except one track from Jesse Winchester’s Gentleman of Leisure. It was a musical Potemkin Village: when I clicked on an album cover, the expected track list would appear, but no matter what song I chose, Matilda’s response was that she couldn’t find the corresponding file. No wonder, since the file was marooned on Kore. The only albums that would play were two very recent purchases: Rhiannon Giddens’s There Is No Other and Songs of Our Native Daughters, which features Rhiannon Giddens — do you see a pattern here?
It looked like I was going to have to transfer everything manually and, well, I procrastinated.
By the time December rolled around, I was ready to get serious. What I love best about the holiday season are the lights and the music, and I was itching to play my Christmassy stuff. (You didn’t ask, but it includes several Christmas Revels LPs, two from the Mediaeval Baebes, two from Nowell Sing We Clear, and the wonderful Wassail!, “a traditional celebration of an English midwinter,” led by John Kirkpatrick.) I ordered a plug-in CD/DVD player for Matilda. I set up Kore on my bed (Tam Lin only takes up half of it so there’s plenty of room for a laptop) and prepared to move all those music folders via Dropbox, two or three at a time.
At some point I realized that anything I’d bought through iTunes could be downloaded again. Why hadn’t that dawned on me in June? Hey, later is better than never, right? That still left all the music I’d bought or downloaded from elsewhere, and the CDs I’d imported into iTunes. This has been time-consuming for sure, and there have been a few glitches, but I’m close to the end and everything’s playing the way it should. (At the moment Paul Simon’s Graceland is glitching more than almost all the others put together, but it’s getting there. Or here, wherever that is.)
The big bonus is the opportunity to get reacquainted with some LPs and artists I haven’t listened to in a while. They’re back, even though they never went anywhere.
Sort of like the music in my life.
Hey, we like some of the same music. Graceland and Rhiannon Giddens, thumbs up! But I have been the opposite to you this COVID season: I don’t want to hear more words alone, through radio, podcasts, or even—gasp!—books. I’ve been listening to all kinds of music, some old, some new. Funny how similar experiences can affect us so differently. Gradually, I am making my way back to my stack of books. I predict that after the inaugural I will be well into it. Cheers, and merry music!