Music as the Soundtrack to our Lives

When I first visit a new friend’s home I find myself drawn to two things — their bookcase and their music collection. From these two personal, living artefacts I can glean many things … I look for similarities with  my own collections and also for differences. I look for recognition — is there something that I have heard about but never explored? What stands out and why? By digging into these two different collections it provides me with an entry to the narrative of my friends’ life — no matter where I dig in I am sure to learn something about some part of their life.

Of course, this can sometimes be a fraught and dangerous investigation. From time to time, this kind of personal archaeology can uncover the key date piece. This is the piece of music or the book that marks a trauma or a major personal change … and in bringing up a discussion about it can change the relationship you have with your new friend. For better or worse (I am sure you know what I mean).

For some time I have been updating another blog which carries a series of YouTube videos of the music that I love. Each song has been specifically chosen for a reason. In many ways, every song is a key date song … every piece marks a turning point for me in some way. Sometimes I write an explanation of this, and at other times I let the music speak for itself. Feel free to take a look, comment or suggest your own favourites for me to listen to!

At the moment I am listening to Bridal Train by The Waifs. When I first heard this band I was not impressed, but they have, over time grown on me. In fact, one of the turning points was the interview that they did on a TV show — Enough Rope with Andrew Denton. In the interview they talked and played, telling the story of their lives and music, interweaving discussion with short performances and heart-felt honesty. The story of Bridal Train, which won the 11th Annual USA Songwriting Competition (the first time it was awarded to a non-American group), and the short performance, was part that got me. (Unfortunately the video below only covers the segment where the girls talk about being live on stage with Bob Dylan.)

This song tells the story of their grandmother who married an American sailor during WWII and caught the train from Perth to Sydney and then sailed to her new life in America. Take a listen below.

9 thoughts on “Music as the Soundtrack to our Lives

  1. Gavin, I often do the same. The music selection can be especially revealing and, at the least, can build a connection on a whole different level. And I’ve been introduced to some great music that way — stuff I may have heard about, but never actually heard.

  2. Well, this was definitely one of those moments in my life. I was torn about putting it online. But felt it was a good way to come to terms with it and also to respond to Lewis.
    Thanks for sharing the song too!!! Loving it!

  3. This is very poignant for me Gavin because my mother and I left Sydney, Australia after WWII and came to America for a new life. My father was killed in action in WWII and my mother fell in love with an American soldier later during the war and she left everything to pick up a new life in America. Once we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, we boarded a train from San Francisco to Buffalo, NY. After all these years, the Aussie within still remains… 😉
    Thanks for bringing a great melody to my day and for your interesting thoughts about the music others enjoy.

  4. That’s funny, one of the first things I do is check out people’s bookcases. I’m not even sure what I’m looking for, I guess II too am looking to see whether it contains books that I’ve enjoyed or been meaning to read, what kind of selection they have, how broad their interests are and whether it might spark a new interest or direction in me. Half the time I don’t even realise I’m doing it when I come to someone’s house for the first time but my eyes immediately search out their book collections. I remember visiting a friend’s house for the first time a few years ago and feeling quite distressed that I couldn’t find a bookcase in the entire house! After finally expressing my surprise that they didn’t keep books (after quite a few wines) they revealed an enormous and wonderous collection in a covered floor to ceiling cabinet I had mistaken as an antique collection cabinet.
    Funny isn’t it, the things you use to understand people and make meaningful connections in your own mind . . .

  5. Robyn … wow — that is an amazing personal story! Great to know that you are a secret Aussie!
    Jayne … that’s funny.
    Jen … I remember the same circumstance years ago. Except there really were NO books. Felt strange. Very strange.

  6. In my book, music is life. Whenever I am feeling in a certain mood, I put on certain music to match it. Hard to look at my virtual music library, since most of it seems to be on iTunes now, but it truly runs the gamut from jazz to classical to rock and alternative. One’s music can indeed reveal a lot.
    Thanks for sharing, Gavin. Rock on!

  7. Hey Gavin – Sign up for and add me as a friend. If you like peeking in on your friends’ music, this seems a nifty way to go about it.

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