WHY MUSIC MAKES ME DREAM
I was born surrounded by music. My parents being professional classical musicians, my sister and I were raised at the sound of musical scales. My mother likes to say that I used to sing her scales as a baby, as if I remembered them from hearing them in her belly when she was pregnant with me. There was always music at my house. When it wasn’t my parents practicing their instrument, there was always a CD on or my father arranging songs for his students on his computer. Classical music had grown to be such a background noise that I was amused when my friends pointed out that my mother was playing the flute.
I never really enjoyed classical music. It was nice to play it and to listen to my parents play, but mostly because this type of music equaled family, home, comfort. My parents put us, my sister and I, at our city’s music conservatory as soon as it was okay for kids to start holding an instrument. I was seven when I started proper classes, but my mother had already started to give me some basis at six. I had chosen to play the flute, like her. My sister had chosen the cello, which is, in my mind, the most beautiful existing classical instrument. I liked playing the flute. I was pretty good at it and I was my teacher’s favorite student, certainly because, unlike her other students, I was practicing it regularly and showed up with something prepared and worked on from one class to the other. The thing is that, when you have musician parents, you don’t really have a choice whether you want to play music for fun or not: it should be fun, but it also has to be serious. As my parents expected from their own students, they expected my sister and I to present ourselves to class with our songs ready and executed to perfection, like tiny professionals. Therefore, I would practice for thirty minutes to one hour with my mom every night. It was nice, sometimes. There is no better satisfaction than achievement in art; compliments on music performances are hard to get because they depend on a lot of things: technique, rhythm, nuances, artistic sense, and even body language… pretty much like dance, really. And usually, I ended up getting there at some point, which is why I loved exams and concerts so much: they were the best way to receive recognition at a larger scale. But most of the time, I won’t lie, practicing was a pain in the ass. It meant less TV, less reading, less playing, less bubbling. It also meant being occasionally shouted at by my parents; music was too close to them, they couldn’t really be objective and detached when it regarded their own daughters. As a result, when I came to the point where I had to choose between going to a reputed music conservatory and pursuing dance in a professional way, I chose dance; it was still very much close to music anyway, but it was at least something I was better at than my parents. Plus, dance also, if not more, induced this thing that excited me so much about music: the stage.
I recognized quite late that my parents had offered me a gift in filling our home with music. Even though it didn’t develop my taste at first, it most certainly developed my ear. I also realized very late how much I liked my father’s musical references. It’s only one year ago that I started singing along the CDs he played, simply because I had listened to them outside the house: and yet, they had been on my living-room’s shelf since I was a kid. I had refused to let my parents educate me in terms of music, but I had gladly let my friends do it; and in the end, everyone’s tastes pretty much looked alike. The funny thing is that we almost never played CDs of classical music at home. In consequence, I had assumed that classical music was not for amusement, but only for professional work and performance. I was pretty surprised when my best friend told me for the first time that she enjoyed listening to Chopin and Satie. Although that was quite mainstream classical stuff, it was still classical. My parents never imposed me concertos, symphonies and operas. As a kid, they fed me with old French variety; our classics were Trenet, Brassens and Brel. Later, I put words on my father’s preferences: he was quite polyvalent, getting interesting in everything from jazz to folk and country music. I don’t think he had favorites, but he sure had regulars: Billie Holiday, Cat Stevens, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Buena Vista Social Club, Toto, Neil Young. I remember when we came back from our trip to Lisbon: he had fallen in love with fado, which is Portuguese traditional music, and brought back CDs and CDs of fado from different time periods. Ever since, we listened regularly to Ana Moura. We rarely played The Beatles, Aznavour or Dalida. Anything can be called ‘classic’ anyway. I admire my father for the way he listens to music: as any other thing he grasps, he grasps it with intelligence, precision, subtlety and interest. He’s more interested in the melodies, sounds and instruments than in the lyrics; he doesn’t understand English anyway. He’s both a musician and an analyst in everything he does. I guess he thinks that it’s more important to feel and interpret the message than understanding it by reading it on a lyrics web page. Now, my father and I actually have discussions on music, which never happened before, and I wish we had started before I left the house.
My mother appreciates music quite differently. I’m more aware of how my father does because it’s always him who chooses which CD to play; but I know that she has strong, if ever stubborn tastes. When we got Spotify two years ago, I asked her about her playlists. She actually didn’t have some. She just listened to the same regulars on repeat, and therefore the application created her daily mixes always oriented to the same type of music. The strangest thing — or maybe it isn’t strange, I don’t know — is that she listens to the same songs and artists she listened to when she was my age. She has still not gotten over Barbara and Thomas Fersen. This got me wondering: will I still be listening to the music I listen to now when I will be her age?
My musical journey started in middle school, when I first got an electronic device allowing me to listen to music on my own. It all began with an impersonal blank: I would listen to any commercial song my peers enjoyed, the kind of stuff that was easy to shout on and dance our asses off on at parties. I was still very influenced by my sister’s tastes then: I had kept our Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Gwen Stefani, Diam’s and Akon favorites on my Nokia. At the end of middle school, my tastes experienced a radical diversification thanks to my best friends. I began to listen to songs that were really chill, that one of my friends and I would jokingly qualify as ‘lounge’ afterward. We would listen to Irma, the Brigittes, Amy Winehouse and the Gossip Girl soundtrack on repeat. And then came a significant change: I discovered rap. I had never gotten interested in it before, not out of despise, but simply out of knowledge. My first rap songs were Eminem’s, but mostly Georgio’s. They were very adolescent and melodic but I liked them a lot. High school then appeared as my true starting point. Following the track of our favorite chill songs, it was the time my friends and I established our favorites: La Femme, Papooz, Alt-J, The Pirouettes, Odezenne. Most of the bands we listened to belonged to this wave of French pop music pretty much oriented toward the 70s and 80s, the type of music we could have qualified of ‘bobo’, although I don’t really know if it means anything. I believe those bands’ aesthetic participated a lot in our appreciation. This was also the time where I went to my first concerts. Coming out of the concert hall La Cigale after The Pirouettes, it suddenly became clear how music had a massive impact on me. Everything about the concert had made me happy: the artists, their settings, their clothes, the crowd, the lights, the dancing, the place, the freedom, the fact of being able to sing the lyrics along, and also the fact of being able to share all of this with my friends.
At one point, I came to the conclusion that we owed basically anything to our frequentations: people are usually brought together by their centers of interest, and music was one of them. Consequently, I owed, and still does, practically every song from my playlists to a friend or someone I know. My appreciation of rap matched the very moment I met someone bringing me closer to the new environment I had burst in: I felt like I didn’t fit in my new high school, but meeting someone I had a connection with and who shared with me some keys to musical integration helped tremendously. In tenth grade, I met a boy who made me love Vald, Hugo TSR, SCH, Nusky and Lil Peep. When he left, I sheltered in my best friends’ chill and cool music. But when I started finding my way through my high school and its environment, rap took over again. I never stopped enjoying my first rap artists, but I diversified. I discovered Stupeflip, Lomepal, Roméo Elvis, Damso, Travis Scott, Young Thug, PLK, Sirap, IAM, BONES, Tyler the Creator, Columbine, 7Jaws, Alpha Wann, Disiz la peste, Zola, Koba la d, A$ap Rocky, Jul, Myth Syzer, Alkapote, Josman, Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, Diddi Trix, ICO, and later, Jorrdee, Mac Miller, Yung Lean and the $uicideBoy$. I had always had the habit of classifying and ranking everything: for a while, all my songs were put whether in the RAP, or the COOL, or the OLD ONES playlists. But at some point, everything began to mix: my friends’ tastes diversified, I started making diversified friends who brought me trans and techno music, and suddenly some rap songs had room in the COOL playlist, some ‘old’ songs found their way to the COOL playlist. Everything melted and mixed into a beautiful musical and social mess where my parents, my friends, my idols and me were all actors.
Apart from all the circumstances that can make me love a song, I found what was important to me when listening to something. Unlike my father, I think lyrics are crucial. It’s not necessarily what I notice first; but when I like a song, I can’t bear not understanding what it says. Good lyrics are only the touch that can give perfection to a song. However, what first strikes and attracts me when listening to a song is the melody, or the prod for a rap song. Sometimes, it only takes me two seconds of the prod to decide that I like the song, even before the artist starts singing. But what truly characterizes a good song to me is the way it fills my ears: if it doesn’t envelop me, if it doesn’t feel loud when it is played at low volume, it doesn’t move me. The more the song is efficient on a raw and simple approach, the more I like it. I like to think that art should be considered in the simplest way as possible: it is cool to go deep into comprehension and analysis at one point, but in my mind, it is only the second step. You can’t decide that you like a piece of art according to what the message is, to what the artist’s background is, to what reputation and history it bears. Whether you like a song is something you know instantly, or a least after a few listenings. It wouldn’t be honest to love through significance and legitimacy: you love it, or you don’t.
Going to a lot of concerts, festivals and singing myself went completing the vision I had of music. Becoming a spectator made me want to become a creator. Music had become not only enjoyable and comforting, but also exciting. Everything about it was: the possibility of turning a mix of my musical tastes and my love for writing, expressing and being on stage into art. From now on, I did not only like the bands and artists I listened to, I admired and envied them too. Going to festivals particularly triggered those mixed feelings: they were places for both social and artistic interaction, and I would get out of them torn between happiness and frustration. Watching the artists on stage performing those songs that had accompanied me through any moment of joy, any moment of sadness, any significant change, was the consecration of my love for music and made me feel close to them. My best friend lent me her favorite book to read: Just Kids, the autobiography of Patti Smith. This book is only one more proof to me that social links and music are related. Everything about Smith’s life has been connected to human beings that made her grow, not only as a person but also as an artist. She made me understand truly the concept of a muse: a person that inspires you so much that its human existence pushes you to create, not only in the name of that person, but also in the name of everything this person has brought you. She managed to make the different aspects of her love for art collaborate: she turned her passion for fine arts, poetry and rock and roll into music, a type of music involving her time, her dreams, the past, the people around her and the people she admires.