Listen and See

I like to go for walks in the evenings here, after work.  At that time of day, the light is usually beginning to gain that slightly golden tinge that signals the beginning of the winding-down of the day.  Jindo Eup, the town, is in a valley and the sun sets behind one of the mountain ridges a few miles from town, and so the sky stays light for quite awhile after the sun is no longer visible.  Most of the farmers are finished with their work for the day, so I can wander around un-harassed among the little dirt roads that crisscross the fields like a fishing net, with my camera on my back and my ipod piping music into my ears.

I am rarely without my ipod when I am out shooting.  I consider it as much a part of my requisite gear as my extra memory cards, or my lens-cleaner.  It is not that I find it difficult to shoot without also listening to music, but instead I find that music helps me to “see” the moments I shoot, before they happen.  It’s not that I can necessarily tell what is going to happen – it’s that I see the photo I want to take, in my mind’s eye, and then it is merely a matter of finding the right position and waiting for the scene to occur.  Sometimes it never does.  Regardless, people who know me well can sometimes figure out what kind of music I was listening to at the time simply by looking at my photographs.  Similarly, if I don’t have music, my work is often somewhat uninspired, and I generally even have to remind myself to shoot.  To me, my eyes and ears are not just organs for sensing different aspects of the world around me, the two are in fact very inter-connected.

I estimate that I spend, on average, 8-12 hours a day listening to music.  Music has always played a rather large part in my life.  I have spent most of my life surrounded by it.  When I was young, I had a toy which, if you were to rock back and forth on it while sitting on it, it would spin you around.  I would sit on that toy, with an old Sony Walkman in my lap and headphones on my head for hours on end, listening to The Yellow Submarine or Joshua Tree over and over and over again, in an almost trance-like state.  There exist countless photos of me on the damn thing, my blonde hair flailing out in every which way.  In middle school, I got a portable CD player.  I listened to it endlessly in the car, as I had previously with my Walkman.  Not only that, but I began taking it to bed.  I would lay awake at night, listening to soundtrack CDs (my favourites were Last of the Mohicans and Benny and Joon, both of which still top that list to this very day) over and over again, imagining whole stories to go along with the music.  Near the end of middle school, I actually began to sneak out of the house at night to go sit up in my tree house in the middle of the night to listen to music and watch the stars.  I was a weird kid.  Most parents would have been concerned about a 14 year old sneaking out at night to go be with boys; mine were concerned about me falling off the ridge of our roof while climbing around pretending to be a spy at 4am (at least, they would have been, had they known).

I become more observant when I’m listening to music.  My eyes tend to slightly un-focus, and so while nothing is in sharp focus, I get a better general picture of the world, and I notice small things, especially motion, far faster.  My reaction time also goes up incredibly, as does my ability to focus without exhausting myself.  Without music, I get tired after an hour and a half of driving.  With music, I have been known to drive for 18 hours at a stretch (with gas stops, of course).  Without music, the world seems dimmer, duller, less real.  The best way I can describe it is that when I have headphones on, the world feels like I’m in a movie.  When I don’t have music on…it feels like the monochrome world of 1950s sitcoms, only minus the funny neighbors with witty one-liners and the happy-go-lucky postman.  I honestly cannot imagine going through my life without music.  The world I experience when I don’t have music on is interminably dull.  I don’t know how others deal with it, frankly.  Sometimes I feel like the protagonist in Pleasantville; I experience the world in colors, and when you take away my music, I am stuck the real world – in grayscale.  But to me, the grayscale is unnatural, rather than the colors.  Frankly, it’s a miracle I have never gotten into drugs, all things considered.  Maybe music is my drug – it certainly alters my perception of the world.

I recently got a pair of wireless headphones.  Now, I never have to be without my music, as I cook, as I clean, hell, even as I sit on the toilet with my book.  Sometimes I listen to short stories on audiobook as I cook – last night I listened to Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro while cooking zucchini for my spaghetti.  I have taken to wearing them even to bed.  They are cushioned, so they don’t hurt my ears when I lay on them, and this way, I can give the direction of my dreams a musical “nudge” as I drift off to sleep.  The playlist on the computer only lasts about 10 minutes, and it rarely takes me more than half that to fall asleep.  In the morning, I pick them up off the floor where they invariably fall during the night’s tossings and turnings, and stick them back on my head as I prepare for my day.  And so it begins again.

Over the years I have figured out that I can change my behavior in subtle but significant ways through music.  By listening to particular music before I have to complete a given task, I can shift my actions, even my deportment, to be more appropriate to the undertaking.  This has backfired a few times in recent years – after listening to aggressive, confident music, I have occasionally come off a bit too far on the side of self-assured and have been dismissed as cocky.  In general though, it has been a great help to me, and has aided me in getting through some difficult situations.  Usually it comes through in my personality, though sometimes it even has physical influence – in middle school I used to listen to fast music before running in a race.  When I was able to, I almost invariably came in first or second.  When I was unable to, I was somewhere near the back.  The power of mind over matter is truly amazing sometimes.

So, you see, I would have to argue that music has been and still is, quite possibly, the most influential force in my life.  My parents and various friends certainly have all played a major hand, but on the olympic platform of my life, music stands at the top, a gold medal around its neck.




1 Response to “Listen and See”

  1. 1 Mom
    October 20, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    Like the new blog though sometimes it’s hard to keep up!

    Forgot to mention that another package came from Threadless that I put in your room with the other.

    BTW, I am painting your room a periwinkle blue slowly….I hope you like it.

    Hope you remembered about the Visa

    Love you

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