Sound track to youth

Imagine a peaceful, serene scene set in a nice suburban neighborhood. Ranch houses line the street; windows and front doors are open to let in the fresh spring breeze. And out one of these open windows, the nice 9-year-old girl is blasting Nirvana’s Nevermind, her first real record. That would be me, 4 years ago. The voice of Kurt Cobain could only be a forecast of what teenage angst was to come, and I’ve been 13 for six months.

Over these few years, my musical tastes have moved around quite a bit, from a lengthy obsession with the Beatles as a tween, to a summer-long venture into punk rock, and now, finally, coming to indie (if I must classify it). Needless to say, the small Jewish private school I grew up in, where Abercrombie is to them as an unknown band is to hipsters, left little room for music. The bands I love bring joy, happiness and exuberance to my life. While most of my classmates are counting down days until graduation from our hellhole of a school, I count down days to album-release dates. I have been called a freak, insane, weird and punk, but it doesn’t bother me.

Records provide a sense of love and belonging for me, and set a backdrop to my life that makes it all that much different from everyone else’s. Now, I wouldn’t know for sure, but I’m almost certain that most teenage rock fanatics have had similar feelings; so, disobeying my English teacher’s writing instructions thoroughly, I am going to tell you exactly what you are going to read about: music as a home, a community, and a sound track to a life. Here goes:

As far back as my memory will stretch, to the age of about 3, I can remember things through music. My earliest musical memory would be of my mom walking through my nursery school halls, swinging our intertwined hands, and singing “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” When we had to clean up our toys at the end of the day a teacher would put on the Barney cleanup song (“clean up, clean up, everybody clean up …”), and I would expend all my efforts into trying not to clean up, clean up. … I picture certain scenes of my life now, when I hear songs and records.

“America” by Simon and Garfunkel was playing in my head during my great-grandmother’s funeral, and continues to remind me of that day. Lennon’s “Imagine” conjures up the sensation of slow dancing with a boy at my bat mitzvah party, and later finding out that he had a girlfriend. I wanted to slap him for flirting with me and my friend (finding out that boys can be jerks is a tough lesson to learn).

A more joyous memory would be that whenever I listen to “Is This It” images of my front-row experience at a Strokes concert stay in my head for hours. The 50 minutes start to look like a coming-of-age experience for me, as I turned 13 about a week afterward.

The memories build up: dancing around my room to the Rapture, putting together my underground newspaper to Wilco and the Libertines, forcing my mom to hear about Kings of Leon, and whining to my dad about not being able to go see the White Stripes. All is accompanied by the appropriate sound track.

However specific these experiences may be, I know I can’t be the only person who feels this way. There is even a band called the Soundtrack of Our Lives, so I guess that serves as evidence that I’m not quite insane.

While I am young, and have yet to come across a whole lot of things to remember, the years of other people’s lives must be accumulated with various wins, losses, deaths, births, and falling in and out of love, and all have music in the background, from the typical to the quirky.

And while we may forget sometimes — or want to forget — the music will remind us how to pull our heads out of the clouds and revive us back from the deepest of pitfalls. Music will make life worth living just that much more.

Back to Amateurs write, like, prose

Dara Levy-Bernstein is an eighth-grader in Albany, N.Y. E-mail [email protected]
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