Actually, it IS Rocket Science

Thanks for nothing, Vivaldi

Somewhere around my second year in college while I was still toying with the idea of minoring in music and before I met the boys who I would later form a band with, I took an extensive majoring-level course in Music Analysis and Composition.  We attended class three times a week for lecture and twice a week for comp lab.  Amongst our required texts were scores of some of the “hits” of the Baroque and Classical era of music, in this case Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique” or  Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” where we would literally go in, measure-by-measure, and painstakingly dissect several movements from the piece from beginning to end as if we were pre-med students studying the nervous system.  (My apologies to med students who are past the nervous system- think of it more as just a frame of reference for the rest of us who will one day stumble into your care and hope you don’t remember that one time you read about someone relating music appreciation to your life-saving abilities).

Part of our assignments included taking these movements and listening to them outside of class and taking notes on them.  I was in a living arrangement at the time that didn’t offer me enough quiet to play things like Mahler or whomever else in a split-level house with five girls living in it.  So I did the next best thing: I packed my earphones and music ledger and headed to the university’s computer lab.

The computer lab was undergoing a changeover in their computers; some were switching to having the brains on the tabletop and some were still content with the massive brain monstrosities that impinged on your ability to tap your foot in time to whatever you were listening to.  I opted for one of the newer ones, because keeping time is something you can’t really give up while following a musical script. I loaded my music, plugged in my earphones into the desktop brain, opened my manuscript, and began playing the piece, periodically stopping, restarting, rewinding, and rewinding again to keep up with my notes. On average it took about 20 minutes to get through 3-5  minutes of music, plus there were some issues with the sound because while I could hear the music, it seemed dampened somehow.  I assumed it must have had to do with the new system, so I shrugged it off and instead cranked it.

Everything was going fine until I noticed that I was given this look from a guy sitting adjacent from me.  It was a look that I couldn’t really put my finger on, but by my 18-year-old definition could possibly be translated as a sidelong glance.  I waited a moment and looked back at him to see the same half-smirk, and I considered that I was being given “the look.”  That was crazy.  I had never been given “the look” before.  I smiled back.

I went back to my work, playing the same 10 seconds of “Petrushka”  over and over again and thinking what kind of interesting thing I could tell him I was working on when he undoubtedly asked me, when a lab tech ambled his way through the packed lab and finally landed at my station.  I noticed he was facing me specifically and so, graciously, I took my earphones out to give him my full attention.

And that was when I realized that my earphones weren’t working in the outlet I had plugged them into and what were causing that “dampened” sound, and that by turning the music up I was actually playing the piece back to all of the students within a 7 foot radius, at least, and not even a full piece of music, but rather the same 5 seconds over. and. over.  …again.  and… oh god. the lab tech worked on the other..side. of..the. room… and. … … ohdeargodthatguyIjustsmiledatwasgivingmethegethefuckouttahereface.

There was a big personal learning curve beginning around the age of 18.


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