Monday, December 20, 2010

Music as Religion

This past week I watched the film Away We Go twice, once by myself and once with my husband.  I enjoyed the movie, although I found it incomplete and inconsistent (particularly in its mood, that jumped from solemn to slapstick to realistic to over-the-top).  It brought back a lot of my feelings of the period of my life when we were trying to get pregnant.  It also reminded me of something I'd been meaning to blog about, which is music as religion, because music is used somewhat heavy-handedly in the film.  You will soon see how the two topics go hand in hand.  Just an FYI: this blog post may border on the TMI, although if you've read Get Well Soon, one might say you already know TMI about me.

You probably know I have a two year-old daughter, but you may not know what a difficult time I had getting her.  The process was a two year roller coaster ride that included one miscarriage, hours of needles and testing (and, again, if you know anything about me, you know this is my phobia), and a complicated pregnancy with Romy.  Some of you may ask, why look back if you have a beautiful, perfect daughter now?  To that I answer: it is not something I will ever forget.  My friend, Cheryl, has twin girls, one of whom was in the NICU for just a few days.  Her twins are now in grade school, and Cheryl said she still cries when she remembers it.  Infertility is horribly painful (which was a piece of Away We Go that definitely got to me) and traumatic, and it is still fresh in my mind.  By the way, after all of the testing and the ridiculous infertility specialist we saw (one day she came to the office wearing a sparkly dress, the next she was in jeans, her hair piled atop her head because she couldn't bother to fix it), we ended up getting pregnant the natural way.  It just took a very bumpy road to get there.

Now- on to the music!  I used music as religion as a teenager.  I'm thinking most of us did/do.  But now I recognize that there were specific songs throughout my life that really were The Gospel.  Since this post is already too long, I am going to name the three songs that have been religious experiences for me during the last five years of my life.  Away we go:

"Let It Be" by The Beatles - I remember this song coming on the radio frequently when Matt and I would drive home from my mom's house during the trying-to-get-pregnant era.  The darkness, combined with the passing stripes of the road, elevated this song to a mantra.  I now sing along with it loudly to remind myself of Paul's wise words.

"Let's Go Crazy" by Prince -
Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
2 get through this thing called life

Electric word life
It means forever and that's a mighty long time
But I'm here 2 tell u
There's something else
The afterworld

A world of never ending happiness
U can always see the sun, day or night

So when u call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
U know the one - Dr Everything'll Be Alright
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby

'Cuz in this life
Things are much harder than in the afterworld
In this life
You're on your own

I cut and pasted these lyrics from a website called  I am not a huge fan of people posting lyrics on their blogs, so feel free to skip, as I usually do.  This is from the beginning of the song, where it's like a sermon (forgive me if that's not the right term.  I am a Jew), and I always just used to think of this song as a weird Prince dance/rock jam with a funny church theme.  Back up the sixth week of my pregnancy with Romy when I found out we were having twins.  Six weeks later, I was driving home from the hospital by myself after learning that one of the twins stopped developing at seven weeks.  A relatively common event that many women don't even know happened to them (we just happened to have an early ultrasound because of all our complications), but upsetting nonetheless.  Matt and I drove separately because I was coming home from work.  On my drive, this song came on.  And all of a sudden I got it.  I was in Prince's church.  And at the end of the song, where the guitar builds to heavenly heights, and he screams "Take me away!" I was changed.  I still get chills even thinking about it.

"Falling Slowly" from the Once Soundtrack - I know there are variations of the names of the band who wrote this song, so I could have written The Swell Season or their names, but it really started from when I saw it in Once.  I am assuming the lyrics to this song are about something going on between the couple in the film (and if you have not seen it, please do.  It's magical.), but I found that they worked for me as I failed to get pregnant.  The first lines of
I don't know you
But I want you
All the more
For that
choke me up to this day. 
Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Yeah, I'm crying now.  But here's the kicker:
You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It's time that you won
I'm pretty sure this song was not written for people trying and failing to get pregnant, but damn if it didn't feel like it was for me.

So there you have it.  Those songs hit me with religious fervor and still inspire awe every time I hear them.  There have been more in my life, like "Alive" by Pearl Jam when I was a clinically depressed teenager, but I think I've shared enough for one blog post.  Probably enough for more than one.

If you've stuck with this long post and you'd care to share, what are some of your songs-as-religion choices?


Anonymous said...

Beautiful post! I know exactly what you mean when you said music as religion. For me, the two that stand out are Seven by Sunny Day Real Estate and Regret by New Order. There are so many songs I love, but those are two in particular that really described how I felt at certain stages of my life.

Julie H said...

Thanks, anonymous, for commenting! I can see how Jeremy Enigk would do that to you. Love New Order, too!

Kimber Leszczuk. said...

Mine is the song "Exactly" by Amy Steinberg.

Julie H said...

I don't know that one, Kimber. Thanks for sharing!

Niss said...

Mere gurudev by Krishna das. It's sounds like floating.
Happy holidays Julie!

carey said...

i was just rewatching away we go! even with its faults, i adore it.

"falling slowly" is for sure on my songs-as-religion list. my husband and i got to see the swell season at ravinia this year, on our anniversary. it was perfect.

in the cliche-but-true category, "here comes the sun" by the beatles, "god only knows" by the beach boys, "america" and "the only living boy in new york" by simon and garfunkel, and "pink moon" by nick drake. i don't think anyone can argue with those. :)

and less cliche, but just as true: "gentle arms of eden" by dave carter and tracy grammer, "sons and daughters" by the decemberists, "as we go along" by the monkees (yes, the monkees). and just about the entire r.e.m. catalog.