i saw a daily post of the day challenge prompt a few days ago that i meant to do on the appointed day but did not—my hectic schedule—(my hectic idleness!)—which asked people what song transported them back to another place in time—which made me think, isn’t that all songs? i mean, all songs that one has heard before that managed to make themselves memorable?
then i thought about the question in an real attempt to answer it. starting by thinking of what my official favorite songs are—then checking some stats on myself on itunes—then scrolling up and down for a bit—then soulsearching a bit—i decided my answer was the byrds’ `wild mountain thyme.’ several years ago i went on a [poorly conceived] kind of jain studies road trip slash graduate fellowship and had a brief but intense thing with one of my fellow scholars. we spent several very long days sitting next to each other listening to my ipod (romance-style, with one headphone for each of us), looking out at scorching rural landscape, having complicated feelings—while the bus driver got lost on the way to all kinds of monumental esoteric places—and while replaying certain songs (like ‘wild mountain thyme’) over and over. which song really worked like a dream in the context. it was a dreamy context. and `wild mountain thyme’ does always take me right back to that bus and the landscape.
i feel like there was one other song that we also replayed a lot on that bus trip, or in any case it had some special significance because it came on as the bus was arriving in jaipur at something like one in the morning and we were half-asleep and feeling tender and so was the song—i mean, it came on as if on cue—could have been a commercial for ipod—ipod knows what you really want to do! ipod is here to help grad students get it on! (not to be crass….) now i am trying to remember what that song was. i feel like it was early bob dylan—for some reason—because i am not a big dylan person…i digress.
i feel like there is something cheap and obvious about answering that question with `wild mountain thyme’, though—though i do sincerely really like the song—i feel like there’s something about the song itself that makes it nostalgic even if you’ve never heard it before—it kind of has nostalgia built into it. well—it’s a british traditional song—or maybe a faux traditional song—and it’s a gentle, yearning song—interpreted through indic traditional arrangement—mellowed and fuzzed out through the studio production. then, i think also, both my romantic colleague and i were aware that the context was dreamy and that our thing was confined to the moment—if not a product of the moment—it was cinematic while it was going on, and we had a little device that let us make the soundtrack, and what could be more pleasant? (i speak only for myself, and not for him, of course—also, maybe i was more aware than he was that our thing was confined to the moment, because i was somewhat aware that i was going to run out on the jain meandering and head to mysore—in pursuit of a pandit, and pāṇḍityam, and other difficult virtues—things incompatible with wild mountain thyme—i was somewhat aware that i needed to lay up a store of memory.)
also, going back to my initial answer—which is actually a question!—“isn’t that all songs?” i am further convinced of the cheapness and obviousness of my answer. there are so many songs that take me back to much less cinematic and socially acceptable places and states—and so many songs that take me to undefinable states—subtle states—places that would probably not be interesting to others—places that are inside jokes—places that are inside-inside jokes, jokes that i have just with myself— and then, speaking of jokes that i have with myself, i realize that i am providing a very good example of what can happen when you ask a scrupulous person an idle question. (at first i wrote ‘innocent question’!) i also realize that i must continue to explore this issue. (i must annotate my itunes! …. no, dora random, you really must not.)
teach us to care and not to care.