In this article, i have chronicled my decade long search for a music i heard as a child.
|The Summer of 1998
It was the Summer of 1998. India was still in its economic infancy, but growing really fast. People had more money, and could be more frequently sighted at luxury spots like Airport lounges, high end restaurants etc. At my tender age of 9, however, this was just another exciting flight journey with my family to my maternal grandparents’ house at the onset of summer vacations.
I was walking down the aircraft aisle, on a well kept, sleek printed carpet, towards my designated seat somewhere in the middle, on the left, when i first heard the “sound”. It was impossible to describe it, not with my limited exposure to music back in those days. But, two things i registered straight away-there were no vocals, and i liked it, very very much. It straight away conjured in my head, images of the vista offered from the aircraft windows when it would be in full flight, gently floating on milk white clouds, comfortably evading the rays of the ember shaded sun, which,somehow, looked awfully mellow. Every other minute, or so it seemed, the aircraft wings would take a dip, and expose a whole new world of just green plantations, with a scatter of what looked like houses made of blocks. The sound felt like it would come from those plantations, reverberate in the clouds, ultimately reaching for the sun, like a songbird...
Now i know it was the customary inflight music playing softly in the background, played to passengers who didn’t seem all that affected by it. Little did i know that this “trivial thing” had started my embarkation on a musical odyssey that would, in some ways, redefine me as a person….
Years went by, accommodating many more inflight visits, to many more destinations. Everytime, there would be some beautiful, soft inflight music, But, never did i hear that sound again! Overtime, even as my vocal chords had begun to put together that composition, i grew to accept that, given there weren’t any vocals in that elusive track, i wasn’t perhaps gonna find it.
It was the Summer of 2009. I was in my third year of College. This was the time i started to find myself alone a lot. This had something to do with the fact that i had been alloted a hostel wing which belonged primarily to second year students. My few friends were still around, but the significant distance between the respective hostel wings had cut short our interactions.
The ample me time brought with it fresh perspective. The fourth semester had me buckling under the weight of excessive study load, and precious little preparation time!I began to worry a bit less. I developed a habit of writing my own one line quotes, and even pasting some of them on my bedroom walls, for inspiration.
And then, one fine day, out of absolutely nowhere, the “sound” had struck again. And so began a quest to finally uncover the mystery composition. By this time, i had been exposed to an appreciable variety of western music, though the list would be heavily dominated by pop music, rock music being a distant second. Since a lot of rock music i had heard involved just instruments, my instinct went for rock. And so i googled, “Best Soft Rock Music”
Google returned a dazzling collection of soft rock music by varied artists. “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd absolutely stumped me! But, nothing sounded even remotely close to the mystery composition.
I googled almost everyday, especially when i was tired from studying. Overtime, my relentless pursuit lent a polish to my musical taste. Where earlier, i could only digest the melodious numbers by the likes of Bryan Adams or the foot stomping chart busters by Backstreet Boys, all great numbers but also slightly common,now i was starting to appreciate more sober music-restrained melodies with spicy undertones. “So What” by Miles Davis was a revelation!
At this point, i had worked out that the mystery composition was not soft rock, but a jazz number. My foray into jazz soon grew by leaps and bounds. I was now almost exclusively listening to jazz. This was helped in no small measure by the nature of Youtube, where i discovered all my music. Every jazz piece I listened to would throw up a list of recommendations of similar music, all with stunning thumbnails. I gorged on compositions by Booker T and the MGs. They had a steampunk feel about them. “Orchestrion” by Pat Methemy felt less like music, more like grand architecture. The new, nuanced music that I was listening to gave the otherwise shaky and vulnerable teenager that i was, a sense of self confidence.
Finding the Sound
And then, just as the musical summer was drawing to a close, at a time when I was no longer actively hunting for it, the mystery composition, finally, revealed itself. I was listening to an instrumental by the great Kenny G, when I saw a recommendation at the top-“End of the night” by Kenny G. This was it. A musical odyssey spanning a full decade had come to an abrupt end. It felt glorious,just like it had when i had first heard it. The sound of the saxophone draped me like velvet. The composition was such that it took ages to reveal itself, like a diva emerging from a dark room, it’s silhouette shedding an ounce of shadow with each step she took, until light started invading her pristine image, exposing my visceral delight….
The hit composition by Kenny G did mesmerize me, much like i had expected it to, but, did it match up to the humongous build up? I figured, with mild sadness, that like it usually happens, the real beauty lay in the build up itself-my decade long search for “That” sound.