Start Again

As I noted in a previous post, my life partner and I went to once again feed my never ending desire to see the Counting Crows live as many times as possible back in July. During that particular show under the moonlight of a Tampa summer night, the band played a soft, haunting version of Start Again (a song they released on an album full of songs they covered by artists – like Teenage Fanclub, the band that originally did Start Again – they enjoyed). As I was listening to this version again a couple days ago when the recording of the show we ordered from the Counting Crows website arrived in the mail, it reminded me of the enthusiasm and joy I experience every time I come into contact with new music and especially newly acquired albums regardless of their ultimate quality in the long run.

While I was taking a little break from new posts here on the SSSI music blog, I spent a lot of time becoming acquainted with new – at least to me in each case – music as the summer shifted into fall. Although not exactly planned this time, the process began when I acquired a nice little gift card that allowed me to purchase nine records by a few artists I long wanted to give a more detailed or thorough listening. I spent the entire time I was in Seattle for this year’s SSSI, ASA, and ASR meetings roaming around the city listening to and honestly falling in love with Margo Price and Courtney Barnett and American Aquarium as well as a couple other new to me artists I became acquainted with at the time. When I arrived back home after the conferences, the process continued as two of my favorite artists – Wilco and Amanda Shires – released new studio albums to welcome me to the fall semester of classes. When the official bootleg recording of the latest Counting Crows show my life partner and I attended appeared in the mail earlier this week, I again began thinking about the ways I experience newly acquired musical stories.

For me, the experience of gaining new music – especially if it turns out to be something I really like or even love over time – never fails to elevate my moods, captivate my always on the edge of getting distracted by something else attention, and feel like a brand new adventure containing an infinite number of possibilities. I find myself wondering what major moment in my life will become associated with, for example, Margo Price’s “Four Years of Chances” or Amanda Shires’ “My Love – the Storm.” I find myself imagining, or trying to, what interesting papers I might write while Wilco’s “Happiness” or K Phillips’ “Hadrian” plays in the background. I consider what new friends might emerge from the introduction of some new album, like the latest one from the Head and the Heart, to a friend of mine unfamiliar with that band before now. Since I never write without music, I try to guess on first listen which of the new songs in the collection will end up on one my writing playlists or which new vinyl records will get the most play when I’m editing manuscripts over the years. Since my artistic, creative writing and storytelling always seems to be inspired by and often named after songs, I wonder which – if any – of the songs will do this work in my head, become titles of stories or poems or other creative endeavors, and / or provide a theme to unify a given story or poem I have yet to imagine.

Even though there are many cases (so many) where none of the new songs or records will be an answer to any of these questions, I always enjoy attempting, in every case of starting to listen to something different again, to envision what – if any – role the new pieces of art ringing in my ears will play in the context of my own life course and ongoing self and narrative constructions. It is with this in mind that I wonder how other people engage fresh forms of art – musically or otherwise – for themselves, with others, and in the context of the rest of the meaning making that makes up a given individual and collective life course. What might Interactionists learn from exploring these questions systematically, and what might any one of us learning from thinking about these questions next time we pick up another new piece of art and start again the process of integrating this new element into our own world?

J. Sumerau


About Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction - Blog

The Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction (SSSI) is an international professional organization of scholars interested in the study of a wide range of social issues with an emphasis on identity, everyday practice, and language.
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