The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sounds Unite!

I think community means you have the same songs. When I was in Mexico City I went to a nightclub with all the ambiance of a small hockey arena. There was a drag show at 2am and the dancing stopped. Whenever one of the divas lip-synced to one of those Spanish heartbreak numbers, everyone sang along. That’s when I finally felt I was in Mexico and not some “Mexico” constructed for tourists.

This aural bonding explains the importance of music for teenagers. Your sub-group is mostly defined by the bands you like. My teenage son gets ferocious when I tease him that he has a Hilary Duff CD! It’s like stabbing him in the heart. I imagine that when he and his ska-punk friends get together and a song comes on that they love, they probably rush the dancefloor to mosh along, just like my friends rushed the dancefloor when Siouxsie Sioux started wailing. Body follows sound.

This reminds me of birdsong. Don’t all animals make sounds that call out to each other across the jungle? When you hear it, you rush towards it. It’s sexual, or maybe even more primal that that! It’s about whom you belong with. Your gang. Your pack. Your gaggle. Your pride.

The most fun words in English are those that designate a collection of a certain species: a pride of lions and a gaggle of geese and a murder of crows. Here are some new ones I just googled up: a shrewdness of apes, an exaltation of larks, a shiver of sharks.

It’s quite fun to make up some yourself: a slime of lawyers, a detention of hockey players, a sour of writers…

And now, we have to write the songs that will call these folks to each other: for lawyers, the sound of dropping change; for hockey players, that foghorn buzzer; for writers, the sound of someone else picking up the check?

What’s the collective for a bunch of Canadians? A toque, a toboggan, a trudeau?

I think this is also why it gets harder to like the current pop songs as you age. Your identity forms in adolescence and you'll never respond to music like you did then. If you were going to dances in the 40's, nothing will ever stir you like the blast of brass at the beginning of "In the Mood"; discos in the 70's, that frisson of high-hat that announces "The Hustle"; raves from a couple of years ago, the electronic bleats and blips from a Roland sequencer! These birdsongs get hardwired into us.

I’m not sure who I need to thank that my soundcard was filled up before “umbrella, ella, ella” came along, but I’ve got a candygram with your name on it. Or perhaps I should send a sing-a-long strip-a-gram, some firefighter taking off his gear to “The Night Chicago Died”! Brother, what a night that really was….


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I love it -- a toque of Canadians. I had never heard that word until I moved here. It seemed so nerdy, like Mel Torme. Speaking of which, the sounds my body follows include "Splish Splas," "Rockin' Robin," "Earth Angel" and "In the Still of the Night." The girl's got no class.

Such a fun post, Andrew. Thanks!

Thu Aug 14, 11:21:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

And those are some strange looking Mexicans.

Thu Aug 14, 11:26:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

You didn't know Coronation Street ran through downtown Mexico!

Fri Aug 15, 10:21:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Chumplet said...

My nostalgia repertoire includes Emerson Lake & Palmer, Joanie Mitchell and Yes.

Did you ever notice on an August night, the crickets sing in perfect harmony, much like the bells in the casino? Not a flat note in the bunch.

Sun Aug 17, 09:52:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Yes, crickets! Beautiful.

Sun Aug 17, 10:34:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger T. Lee said...

A toque of Canadians is a stroke of Tibbetsian genius. I love this post!

Wed Aug 20, 11:16:00 pm GMT-4  

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