I go through music phases. I will often go from listening to 5 genres at once to listening to only one artist for days at a time. Right now I’m in a Sufjan Stevens phase. Every morning at work I turn on my well-loved MacBook Pro, promptly open iTunes and search for the wonderfully eerie Sufjan Stevens. I often start with his Seven Swans album then listen to Illinois which was introduced to me by childhood friends. By starting withSeven Swans I can keep the nostalgia at bay for just a little bit more.
On the way back from Cities of Noise’s last performance, housemate Debby and I were listening to a recording of her and brother singing in Coney Island the previous week. I love listening to families sing; their voices blend in a way that cannot be replicated by any sound equipment. It wasn’t a perfect performance. They occasionally forgot the words or he played the wrong chord, but it was some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard. It was so raw and stripped down that it was just them and the guitar. Nothing mattered but the joy of making and sharing music together. They played a Bon Iver piece which was obviously a favorite along with a few other indie pieces.
Then they started playing Sufjan Stevens.
It was a piece from Illinois. All I could remember was the melody, the haunting harmonies, and the freedom I felt years ago when I started listening to Sufjan. Debby and I sang along with the recording until we rolled over the gravel into the driveway. We sat there, eyes closed, listening and humming to “la-di-da’s” at the end of the song that I later found was titled, “Casimir Pulaski Day.”
Today I am listening to “Casimir Pulasky Day” over and over, combining the nostalgia of middle school years along with the late night singing with a close friend. Weeks later I fondly and vividly remember the four-part harmonies that echoed in the aged, red van. The song is so calm that it is comforting. The harmonies are so haunting that it is sad. I blink slower and slower to immerse myself in the peace of the melody but not without suppressing the urge to shed a tear or two.
Listening to nostalgic tunes during a time of transition is a natural thing to do; people cling to the familiar in times of change. So I have listened to “Casimir Pulasky Day”—a 5 minute and 54 second long song—6 times already. It is only 9 o’clock in the morning.
Photo featuring the always gorgeous Debby Fowler.