Music marks moments. Hollywood has deftly exploited this fact since its inception. As with literature, the best music speaks to or about conflict and acts as a signifier.
The day my father died I was walking flesh and blood, but hardly alive. Inescapably filled with such tempestuous emotion, I was rendered hollow, a veritable human husk incapable of motion. Everything became very, very still and I was left alone within myself. Everything was beyond the realm of reason, every task beyond comprehension. To book a flight home created luggage to be packed, necessitated friends and colleagues to be notified of pending absences and on and on; the tasks amassed exponentially and my embattled neurons were incapable of making muscles move. Then the news traveled. I answered questions absentmindedly because my mind was frozen, resultant of a voluntary paralysis to salvage my functionality, my sanity much like the catalytic process that shuts down unessential organs to preserve those that are vital. I must be kept vital. To think is to feel. I must not feel this or I’ll be crippled and there are things to be done…
I flew home a fatherless wretch, drenched in isolation and surrounded by people with no knowledge of my loss: a scenario at once comforting and infuriating. Normally terrified of flying thanks to a profound fear of heights, I was at ease in the air for two reasons: I was ambivalent about dying should the plane free-fall to the ground, and I was listening David Bazan’s newly released Curse Your Branches for the first time. At a time when my nerves had been emotionally soldered, Bazan’s soothing voice and complex lyrics restored a modicum of feeling with their earnest simplicity. Ever relevant regardless of context, the opening track Hard to Be provided refuge for me at a time when it was…well…hard to be a human being.
Four months later, three methods of coping failed, and a switch to waterproof mascara that was a long time in coming, Curse Your Branches remains the soundtrack of my father’s death. Or, to be more specific, the soundtrack to events initiated by his absence, the audio of the void, the soundscape of the sinkhole. Because music marks moments and moments scar music. Their divergence creates a coping mechanism and, eventually, a portal for memories which no longer burn but mollify.
Until that day, burn baby burn.