When I first started working at Across the Creek Studio I noticed that, unlike many shops, this one was “quiet.” Meaning it was full of the sounds of making cabinets … the loud buzzing of saws, the constant hum of the dust collector, the rhythmic tapping of the pump in the spray booth accompanied by the smooth hissing sound of finish marrying wood. Music to my ears. These sounds have become the backdrop of my life, a beautiful grey veil against which dreams, hopes, and thoughts are projected. They are the noises that allow me to focus and concentrate on a task, imagine a buffet that I will later build in my own shop, or sand hour after hour while listening to a favorite podcast. Then one day this music ended, and the radio began asserting itself, staking its claim on the quiet landscape I had come to cherish.
It’s not so much that I don’t enjoy music. I do. I love music. At least I love the music that I love. But, when experienced in the company of others, music sheds light on a reality that I had always preferred to keep hidden from the rest of the world. Though I’ve never heard the term before, I have diagnosed myself with what I refer to as music blindness. Play me a song and I can usually tell you the era in which it was first performed. Ok, well, maybe within a decade or two. Ask me who wrote it or performed it, you will get the same blank stare that my coworkers have laughingly grown accustomed to. Susan, who was the lead guitarist for Van Halen? Hmmm, I don’t know? I thought Van Halen was a person. Is it a person or a band? …. For several weeks, I received my education in music history and appreciation. The song’s origin, who performed it, the cultural significance of said song and/or artist. And since this particular “Classic Rock” station kindly repeated the same songs at least once daily, often twice, I had hoped that something would stick. I looked forward to acquiring knowledge that most of my peers seem to effortlessly possess. Dutifully, I paid attention and repeated the new information to myself in mantra-like fashion. The next day, when the same song would again fill the air waves… nothing. Just nothing. After all the efforts of my coworkers and boss, honestly the only thing I really remember is something about one of the Beatles being a walrus, and I still have no idea why.
“I can’t tell you what it really is, I can only tell you what it feels like.” Eminem
I have come to understand that the experience of music, as with all art, is as unique to each individual as our fingerprints. Though I cannot recall the facts regarding the music I enjoy, I can describe in granular detail where I was in my life when I first heard it… John Denver in the back of the family station wagon, age 9. The sun was warm on my back as we drove down that old county road. Johnny Cash in my first days of school (I only wish elementary, but we’re talking college at the ripe ol’ age of 32). Or “I’m a Believer” by the Monkeys… sung by Barbara Mandrel. That was in my Honda Civic Hatchback on the way to Auburn in the fall of ’86. It was a cold and rainy night. And I can’t leave out one of my first loves, “Puff the Magic Dragon” played ad nauseam on my red and white Fischer Price record player. Music evokes such visceral memories for me, so much so that I consider it to be a time machine, providing instant access to the innocence of my youth, or the not so innocence of my adolescence. Perhaps that is why I can’t listen to music while I work. I get lost and forget where I am. So, when I am asked, which I often am, if I had my head in the sand growing up, I say no. I was in the sand, but it was to play. It’s a lot like my life today. Only, now it’s sawdust instead of sand.