As intangible as music is, flowing freely through the air, it evokes such palpable emotions and draws out such passionate responses as if longing to be touched. I think that is why I like buying CDs. Aside from supporting my favorite artists and others that I happen to come across as opening acts, I like literally holding the music in my hands. I like reading the lyric book and examining the credits to better understand the journey by which each song went from an idea to a collection of curated sound waves released to the masses. With all of this understood, it may not come as a surprise that I have amassed a decent collection of music in the form of CDs. That collection is the reason that I insisted on buying a car that had a CD player, something that is becoming increasingly more difficult to find, after my 2003 Chrysler 300 died a couple years ago. But that collection is more than just a stack of circular plastic slipped into either paper sleeves or plastic cases. It is an audible and tangible time machine that houses years of memories and is filled to the brim with associated thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I can remember hearing most of the songs for the first time, seeing many of them performed live, and the purchase or burning of each piece of the collection which culminated inthem taking their respective places in the center console of my car.
For the first time in a long time, I reintroduced myself to three CDs that I burned during the summer after I graduated from high school, donning such cringe-worthy titles as “Reggae Groove”, “Travel Anthems”, and “Just Chillin’”. But my attachment goes far deeper than whatever I deemed appropriate to scribble on them at the time. As I put each one into the single-CD player over the past week and the sounds of Bob Marley, John Butler, Bedouin Soundclash, Dispatch, and Bobby Aluamong others poured forth through my car speakers, I remembered what went through my head while I put together theindividual Windows Media Player playlists. I remembered driving around with them similarly blaring one car ago. I remember the girl that I made copies for in hopes of getting her into my taste in music. I remember still riding the high of graduation full speed ahead toward the great uncertainty of college as I prepared to say goodbye to some of my friends that were going away to school. Five years after the fact, I see how much has changed around me-I’ve fallen out of touch with some of those friends, college has come and gone, and I’ve moved to Maine. In fact, listening back has made me think of what songs and artists would go on the mix CDs to remember these last four years. But just as I’ve seen things change, I’ve also seen things stay the same-my taste in music for example. Even as it has evolved, I always seem to return to some of the same artists tied to the folk, rock, roots, and reggae genres. I’ve seen most of the bands and individual musicians perform live, the CDs being both my introduction to their music and a time capsule of sorts in which to return for double the nostalgia.
Just as the CDs serve as a permanent reminder of where I come from and where I’ve been, they also show where I’m going as Dispatch and John Butler Trio tour dates are sure to be high points of my summer concert schedule. It is the words of the former in the song “Elias” to which I related most upon listening for the first time again and preparing to see them performed next month: “Hold my hand just one more time, to see if you’re really gonna meet me.” With each fleeting listen or live show that I wished would never end, I’ve sung along and formed a bond. Although it may be some time before these tracks grace my car’s CD player again, I will always return to their essence-the songs, the bands, the music-and they can rest in the center console assured that we will meet again.