Issue June 7, 2011

Me Vs. Music

‘Lift Me Like an Olive Branch’

Listening to Leonard Cohen on a Saturday evening, sipping (OK, gulping) red zinfandel, my dreadlocked head swirls about music and having to write this column. At present, the world is supposed to be gone, ended. Like every other predicted apocalypse, nothing’s happened; but surely it has happened for someone. For me, the end always seems to mean the beginning. Furthermore, it always seems to begin with music, and this time I have a fast-approaching deadline. From my greatest joy to my deepest trouble, music has etched deep marks on my spirit. The last few months, my life has undergone some major emotional changes. I lost my very sectarian job yet gained a path back to my soul. I recognized that at every major junction in my life, I return to a few themes: writing, photography and — the reason you are reading — music.

Shortly after I left my job in April, the LEO music editor called to gauge my interest in writing a column, and it was a moment not unlike those in movies when the heavens part and beams of light shine down. A blessed event — sacred in the way religion is to its followers. It could simply have been the fact that it was one of the few days it wasn’t raining in April.
This column will be a conversation between music and me.

My relationship with music has been complicated. At times, it’s been soothing, recalling those idyllic 1970s, snuggling with my radio years, listening to Dan Fogelberg (yes, I said it) or watching the first snow of Y2K fall on my father’s casket, lulled by Sade’s “By Your Side” repeating in my head. At other periods, it has been an adversarial relationship, like my first punk show after the dark ages of Hair Metal. It left me sick to my stomach, yet itching for the next show.

You see, I have long accepted that as a black woman, my aural tastes are atypical, and, since it was clear I was too shy to be a singer and too impatient to learn an instrument, I took to my notebooks — first writing trashy rock fiction for my high school friends, then turning to legitimate music writing. My most challenging association with music would be a few years down the road.

It began with a brief stint writing online music reviews for the Ptolemaic Terrascope magazine and a conversation betwixt my fiancé and me wondering how we could see the Norwegian band Motorpsycho. I’m pretty sure we were drinking something that I’m also pretty sure was laced with something else that made us briefly mad; our conversation snowballed into me writing a letter to Terrascope’s editor inquiring about the possibility of hosting their Terrastock Festival in Louisville. This was the grand scheme The Boy and I concocted to see the band. Expecting a “Forget it, kid” from the editor and not considering a potential “Forget it” from Motorpsycho, I was given a dossier on how to host an international rock festival that (and, again, I’m blaming substances) I naively didn’t see as intimidating. Ultimately, The Boy and I executed Terrastock 7 — 39 bands over four days — with some pain but mostly joy. The payoff for us was meeting Motorpsycho and realizing that, “Holy fuck, Norwegians are HUGE!”

I’m positive at this point you might be wondering why I took the time to tell you all of this. I think there are several reasons. One, music is a shared experience. We fight about it with friends, go in flocks to see it, sleep to it, eat to it, and create life accompanied by it. The fact is, it is stuffed into every part of our lives. When you read my later pieces, I hope you’ll understand me and how I think about it. Finally, we may not always agree. You may find my opinions unpopular, but know I’m a reasonable person and never claim moral superiority. I just claim that, in my relationship to music, sometimes I own it and sometimes it owns me. I prefer the submissive role, to be transported and moved, but am never just along for the ride. I hope you’ll read and maybe begin your own conversations with music.

Seriously, though, Scandinavians are a giant people.

Erica Rucker is a freelance weirdo, writer and professional wedding/portrait photographer at eElaine Photography.