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the parallels of sex and music and writing.

January 16, 2011

here is a fact that about ONE of you will care about – i picked up my clarinet again over the christmas holidays.

this is probably where you should start playing tchaikovsky’s marche slave. the music is a perfect backdrop for the post. and it very much bores me if you tell me that classical music “is boring” and that you have “never liked it.” grow the fuck up and tune your ear to real music. everyone from bowie to sinatra has borrowed from classical pieces, so everything you love is based off of this, and i am so sick of this nonsensical, no-fucking-attention-span generation only listening to trey songz and kanye west and katy perry. or whoever is “COOL” nowadays. rihanna? led zeppelin? (i fucking wish.)

okay, more seriously – i have really been trying to understand why writing about music – playing music, me playing music and my history playing music – is so, so hard for me.

let me deviate.

when i picked up my clarinet and played it, recently, for the first time in five years, i cried. they were not tears to get attention from anyone, because i was alone. they were not tears at how awful i was, because i was too busy laughing my lungs out at the way i was butchering tchaikovsky to take the time to cry. they were not tears of regret, because for some reason i needed to put away that instrument for as long as i did, though i am not aware of that reason yet. they were just tears that were. i had missed it so much, this instrument, and with the one subtle movement that it took to get my face, my mouth into the proper embouchure, with the first ridiculous squawk with the new, unbroken van doren 3 reed, with the 3 flat time signature that i was so unsure of, i was taken back to the world i had been in for ten years of my life.

to write about music is very difficult for me. i know writers – poets – who can do it effortlessly. i would be tempted to say that said writers are uninvolved, not invested in the music scene (whatever music that may be). but many of these writers are, too, involved in music – as involved as i am (was?). so that theory flies out the window. and as for me, personally? if i were to seriously question myself, i would say that i do not write about music because it means so, so much to me that i don’t want to fail it. i don’t want to write a poem or a piece that falls just that bit short and therefore fails to perfectly narrate my musical life, the musical feeling. maybe that is my perfectionist coming through, or maybe it is just because i feel so much for the instrument that i played that i don’t want to disappoint – disappoint myself, nicolai my previous teacher, my selmer clarinet that lies wrapped in blue velvet in my closet, mewling.

i have tried. i have tried to write poems about that feeling that i spoke to once before – the feeling of whipping your way through a concerto in front of a church-full of silenced people, knowing that you can do it, still terrified despite the hours and hours and hours that you have put into practice, your fingers flying, dexterous, faster than any man’s ever on your body, your mouth stronger than any one you have ever tentatively kissed, the instrument warmed because of the heat of your own hands and palms, your lungs on white fire because of the lack of air – and there, the last set of runs that you know you can hit but only manage to hit once every five times you play them – there, those runs, and that microphone in front of you because you are being recorded for a CD that your music school will later sell, and it’s your last year playing here so you cannot fuck it up – and then you start the runs and you can’t stop to take a breath, and there – it’s the feeling you get throughout your entire body when you know that you are hitting the notes on the beat, a thrum deeper than orgasm, a beat that has been ingrained in you from the day you were born – our natural biological rhythm. we know it for sex. and we know it for music. and then you finish.

i was fairly shy in highschool –  came out my shell in grade eleven but always concentrated on the things i could finitely nail down – music, school work, history essays. i could pretend to be a wild child but when it came down to it i was a nerd at heart, always am. i was especially shy around the male gender. i didn’t date. i didn’t have sex. but i had a substitute – music. and in university, things changed.

okay. somehow – music sex and writing are all connected.

maybe it’s a rhythm that we feel – and some of us feel it more than others. think about it: it’s a thrust that even virgins know how to do on their first time – that movement that our bodies know despite inexperience. and music – it’s a hand clap that even babies can perform when in a communal music class, a polka that i instinctively knew how to do even at my first ever malanka, a finger snap, a foot stomp in the manner of flamenco. i can watch a tango and feel it ignite in my loins despite never dancing it before. and writing – it’s a clickity click of a keyboard, a flurry of words that explodes out of me when i need it to. some of us, perhaps, are more blessed in this rhythmical nature – we play well, write well – do other things well.

but why my inability to write about music? honestly – i practiced one or two hours a day in my final few years of playing. it was so much a part of my life – more so than any men ever have been. and yet i have written poems about men, but not the sleek sexy of the clarinet. i think that music, like sex, is a necessity of life. they both seem to be fairly universal – sex is most certainly universal, as it is how we procreate. music – i don’t know of a society that does not have a form of music. (thinking back to my psychology of music days… hm.)

the best part is (i remember doing a project on this in undergrad) — both music and sex release oxytocin. this is absolutely mindblowing. oxytocin is an interesting hormone – it’s a neuro-modulator.  in basic terms – oxytocin is a hormone that “erases” old memories and casts new ones. women produce lots of oxytocin during sex, while giving birth, and while breast-feeding, and this makes sense, because – in the theory of evolution – women are going to have to be more invested in the pregnancy and birthing and rearing process than men, simply because the women are the ones who have carried the child, whose bodies pay more of a toll. some people have argued that this is why women might become more attached during sex than men. who knows? but the amazing part is that it has been put forth that the human brain also creates oxytocin while listening to music. it has been said that oxytocin is released in times of “trauma and ecstasy” – and what can be more ecstatic than music? so i’m not just blathering on about something i’ve pulled out of my ass. i actually studied this, and it’s totally amazing. it has been suggested that music is a method of survival, a way to create community. it is necessary just like sex. if you want, you can look up david huron’s “is music and evolutionary adaptation?”. but i will also link the article for you.

CLICK HERE. FOR THE ARTICLE. (but keep in mind this a psychology article. it’s not going to be the easiest to read. disclaimer done.)

and maybe i find it hard to write about music because writing is not a necessity of life – more a glorious byproduct – and i am trying to bend the act of writing to my will to capture these two things on paper, these two things that are so feral and real that they are not really meant to captured like that.

i like to conduct concertos to my bedroom mirror. i like to slice my hands through the air during the final section of tchaikovsky’s marche slave. i toss my hair. there are so few people who have witnessed me doing this – this imaginary conductor motions. if you have seen this, consider yourself lucky. blessed. unfortunate, perhaps.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Lucas J.W. Johnson permalink
    January 17, 2011 8:39 am

    Hey Anna! Lovely post. I agree with much of it, and have experienced many of the same things. I think I would argue that storytelling (not necessarily WRITING, but still) is also a necessity of life. Stories can produce the same visceral emotions and ecstacies as sex and music can (if perhaps in different ways).

    Perhaps part of the problem with writing about music is that it’s hard to convey the pure ecstacy of PLAYING music to people who have no talent for music and can thus not understand in the same way as someone else who has experienced it. But perhaps we can attempt to write for those who Know, and share in that wonder.

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