The first time I got stoned I decided to go to someone’s dorm room to watch The Wizard of Oz, but muted with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon playing in the background. I wasn’t amused, but everyone around me was, and I found that dissonance really, really confusing.
All I can remember now is a chorus of people repeating:
It felt staged, and I got paranoid. I had just met these people, and I figured they must be messing around with me, hazing me for being new, or something. I had to get out of there.
I told everyone I was going outside to smoke a cigarette, but I called Andy, told him the whole story, and he invited me to come over to his dorm. I was happy to go over there. He lived in a fancy suite in Exec house complete with a living room, bathroom, and a small kitchen. Good living by college standards.
When I arrived, I discovered that he and his roommates were having a fancy bathrobe party. So, everyone was wearing elaborate, velveteen robes and slippers, and Andy had a fancy cigarette holder in one hand as he greeted me. I sat down on the couch and someone turned on Strangers with Candy but muted it, and played an Iggy Pop album in the background. They started repeating some of the things I told Andy on the phone. How amazing. How incredible. How unbelievable. They didn’t know I was stoned, and thought this would be funny, but I really lost it.
“Not again!” I yelped as I ran toward the door.
This time I was convinced that I was in the Twilight Zone, and that everywhere I went the same situation would repeat itself. I ran out the door and down the hall. Andy chased after me in his ridiculous bathrobe, which only scared me more, but I finally lost him.
When I made it all the way across campus to my dorm room, I decided to leave the lights off to hide. But, it was the year that Blonde Redhead album came out, Misery is Butterfly, and it was my favorite. I put it on and turned it up all the way. I let the music take me somewhere else, somewhere safe.
When I heard a knock on the door, I was startled back into reality. I looked out the peep hole and saw the group of them (Andy and my friends) on the other side of the door. We had a bit of a stand-off, and I’m not sure what made me trust them again. But, eventually that Twilight Zone feeling wore off, and we were just a group of friends who didn’t think that playing Pink Floyd over The Wizard of Oz was so incredible or amazing or whatever.
Music can hold enormous power in memories and experiences, transporting us instantly to an age, location, or person. What sonic joys, mysteries, disbelief, and clarity have you experienced? Identify songs of influence in your life and explore them like variations on a theme, melding syntax and song structure, recalling the seriousness or levity that accompanies. Whether it’s an account of when a specific song first entered your life, the process of learning to play a song, teaching someone a song, experiencing the same song in different places as it weaves through your life, unbelievable radio timing, sharing songs with those in need, tracking the passing down of songs, creative song analysis, music as politics, etc, I am interested in those ineffable moments and welcoming submissions of your own variations on a theme, as drawn from your life’s soundtrack. Please email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep an eye out for others’ Variations.
**(“song” is a broad phrase: could be a pop song, a traditional tune, a symphony, commercial jingles, a hummed lullaby, 2nd grade recorder class horror stories, etc)**
melanie farley is a multimedia poet and aspiring synth goddess. She’s the author of things we have in writing POEMS (for Z) (dancing girl press 2016) and you can find her work in NAIL V and forthcoming in a new Romanian anthology, Bibliotheca Universalis: New Work By Philadelphia Poets. She’s also the fascist in charge at SOUND:POETREE:: Fanzine, and right now she’s obsessed with the synth line in Somebody’s Watching Me.