At a jazz band workshop years ago, a charming clinician with a single earring told us about the splashes of red he saw every time our drummer hit the cymbals. I remember feeling a little envious, because I too much wanted the music to filter through my brain and manifest as colorful fireworks. But even though my neural connections don’t produce spontaneous color sensations, I’ve always been convinced that each song corresponds to its own real and imaginary world of feelings, places, seasons, and colors. My Spotify playlists (numbered in the 200s at this point) are almost all built around these elaborate abstractions. They start with a song painting a vivid image in my mind – crossing the Arizonian desert at dusk, for example, or a desolate, snowy field engulfing a warm cabin – and my almost compulsively wanting to collect all the music I’ve ever heard that feels the same.
Ever since my Spotify Premium subscription became my most precious possession in my freshman year of high school, I’ve been on a sort of musical escape. When my anxiety started to get the best of me, I would immerse myself in some scary and energetic acoustic indie pop. When the long Iowa winter siphoned off my soul and left it in the slush by the side of the road, I would make swing melody playlists and pretend to be on a balcony in Paris, looking at the trees. bloom in spring.
In his book Bluets, Maggie Nelson reflects on Plato’s idea of ââcolor as pharmakon. When I read it a few weeks ago, I was tickled by Plato’s belief that painters are “mixers and grinders of multicolored drugs.” I’d love to take on this role, but never quite figured out how to use the elusive power catalyzed by the right amount of pigment squeezed out of the right tubes. But fell in love with the colors mixed by others, I’m sure Plato was on to something. Sometimes, I find a song whose peculiar tint intoxicates me so that I find myself listening to it over and over again.
Maggie Nelson contemplates, as many have done, what this means pharmakon can translate to both “poison” and “cure”. Color, the kind that tints the edges of a melody and carries me out of my room and into the mountains, is a drug. That for sure. But I don’t know if, in this era of widespread loneliness, color is a cure for my desire or a poison that taints my reality with the blue of longing.
hasta la raÃz – natalia lafourcade
The Huapango the rhythm of “Hasta La RaÃz” reminds me that spring will come when I need this reminder the most. Yo te llevo dentro, hasta la raÃz. [I carry you inside me, to the root.] Natalia Lafourcade’s voice fills a large space, flows from the leaves of the trees and seeps into the ground. I like to think that when I play this song aloud in my bedroom, my houseplants – which are struggling beside my huge drafty windows, doing their best to make it through winter Providence – are listening. . Natalia’s tender harmonies, superimposed, twisted, flowing like a stream over stones covered with algae, give my heart a feeling of green. My thumbs, not so much, but inspecting the leaves of my monstera during “Hasta La Raiz” playing in the background, I plant a tiny seed of hope for spring.
my girl, my boyfriend – honey
The sweet chorus of voices from Darlingside, once a cappella university, light a little blue flame behind my solar plexus. A happy / sad banjo riff and an octave slide on the bass awakens the memory of the wind irreparably tangling my hair on a boat off the west coast of Ireland. I wake up alone, am I in Amsterdam or Tokyo? Sometimes I float above the ocean on a well-placed major seventh, sometimes I speed through the cobbled streets of Copenhagen on my bike, the four ropes strengthening the spokes of the wheel. Sometimes I just linger on the pedestrian bridge, admiring the snow-capped silhouette of Providence through my headphones. Sometimes blue is just loneliness. But as Maggie Nelson points out, “loneliness is loneliness in the face of a problem.” I get to my feet, I walk out the door into a busy street. If only.
ojos del sol – y la bamba
Luz Elena Mendoza’s soft vibrato brightens up a golden afternoon. The soft strumming of the crooked guitar reminds me of the days I spent by the open window of my childhood bedroom last summer, watching the garden bloom and savoring the warm breeze. It reminds me of a summer I haven’t experienced yet, when I will spend my days by the open window of my bedroom in Providence, watching another garden bloom and feeling the sun on my face. Eres como el Viento, el Viento que me lleva. [You are like the wind, the wind that carries me.] Maggie Nelson writes that âalmost all cultures have regarded yellow in isolation as one, if not the the least attractive of all colors. But “Ojos del Sol” proves that if you find just the right shade, yellow can be what helps you get through loneliness.
c2.0 – charli xcx
The squeaky, metallic sounds that underlie Charli XCX’s âc2.0â give me what I feel when I think of all the friends I wish I could kiss. âC2.0â is the accelerated and musically euphoric child of Charli’s song âClickâ, remixed by AG Cook. While “Click” is a boastful ode to its clique being just all of that, “c2.0” is a manifestation of both the anguish of being separated for an indefinite period and the intoxication of a colorful memory. . Instead of “smash[ing] at [my] eyes to replicate the lost color sensations, âI listen to this song and watch its synth-induced rainbows scatter across my ceiling. I miss them every night, I miss them I miss them I miss them, Chante Charli, simple invocation of my – our – insoluble desire.
Right now, as I spend hours on long, lonely walks through Providence, remembering the times when I could instead spend the hours enjoying a latte or looking at Pissarro’s painting of cows in a field at the RISD Museum, the music contains a particularly powerful elixir of emotions. Notes of nostalgia and nostalgia, a euphoria that lights up the mundane snatches of life in isolation, little bursts of freedom that replace the kind I used to get looking out of a window. plane or closing your eyes in the middle of a wild, flying partying. I do my best not to abuse the latter feeling or dwell on the former, but rather to lean into the sounds that satisfy me with this limited life form.
Although I haven’t mastered the color mixing myself – when I mix the pure, vibrant color of each song with the others it sometimes ends up in a confusing brown mess – I try my best not to be ” prisoner of a single pearl “of the multicolored life necklace. All of my moods lately have had at least a little bit of blue mixed in, but they’ve also been yellow and green and red and purple and rainbow. And that is its beauty: colors are neither discreet nor static, but can flow, mix and transform just like emotions. Maggie Nelson concludes that if pharmakon means poison or healing is a matter of translation. And so, when the urge to hide from my loneliness behind the music strikes me, I remember that I can choose to make it into a medicine and let its vivid hues paint a picture of tomorrow for me.