Picture the scene. Or, in this case, the sound.
You’re listening and/or singing along to the soundtrack of that stage show you love, getting – in my case – an impressive 87% of the lyrics right.
When an email drops into your inbox to tell you said show is set to close in a matter of months.
You immediately tell everyone you know and who you think might care. This doesn’t take long.
And then you rush to see if you can book tickets for the final announced performance.
If they’re not already completely sold out, they’ve at least tripled in price.
So you resign yourself to settling on listening to the soundtrack on repeat forevermore.
Rest assured, I know we have all been and are going through much, much worse. But this was my reality a few weeks back when my favourite musical announced it would be closing on the West End after what will have been a very successful five year run. And I was embarrassed for being as sad as I was.
See, around the time the producers announced the show will be closing, there was a lot of buzz around the imminent release of a new album by a very popular and highly accomplished solo artist.
Let’s call her Sailor Twift.
I was struck by how excited Sailor’s fans were and how reassuring it must be to know you have more to come from a person whose music you admire so much, and which has perhaps carried you through some of your most significant life events. I wasn’t sure if I could relate however, largely because, I never really listen to music.
Even as a kid, unless I was in a dance class or at a party or in a shop, I’d rarely actively stop to listen to music, usually preferring to watch a TV show or a film in my downtime or, when I started working in the industry and making my own money, going to the theatre. I don’t know that I’d even know where to start with listening to music. I never know the name of songs.
I always need it played to me it before I (maybe) recognise it – and I am preposterously overwhelmed by the question, ‘What type of music are you into?’
Although, that’s not entirely true. I do know because I do like music. I love it.
And whilst I might not actively engage with music like so many others, I hear it. I see it. See, most of my favourite music comes from soundtracks. It does mean I have varied taste.
I love the soundtracks to…
and About Time (2013)…
as much as I do the ones to Pride (2014)…
… and just about anything ever released by the MCU.
And: I’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy religiously since it first aired in 2005. So you bet I love every iteration of How to Save a Life that’s ever been breathed into existence. Indeed, whilst I consider them family given how often I hear their voices in my head, I wouldn’t recognise Tegan or Sara if they walked past me in the street, which is a shame because I’d love to thank them for providing the soundtrack to my life for the last…ahem…17 years and counting.
But at least I have the series to go back to and watch over and over and over. And – you get the idea: so I can hear the songs in situ, the score to characters so three-dimensional, they feel like real people in my life.
I’d be lying therefore if I said I wasn’t experiencing low-level grief at the closing of my favourite stage show early next year.
Music has the power to root us in a moment, to show us we’re not alone in feeling the myriad feelings weare both cursed and honoured to feel in tandem at any one time. And it can help us make sense of the world around us. Music also has the ability to tell stories.
And when we associate it so deeply to the stories of characters who we might relate to on a very deep level for any number of reasons, it can be difficult knowing there’s no more music coming.
You can listen to a soundtrack over and over, you can watch reruns, but it’s not live. You don’t get the same hit of whatever that feeling is when a person sings a line, or a musician plays a melody that speaks directly to you and encapsulates everything you’re feeling in a single note. You miss out on the rawness and danger of a live performance and, frankly, you might prefer the way one performer sings a song to the one singing it on the copy of the soundtrack you have access to.
Where I relish in the mourning period of my favourite shows ending – I fully intend to wear a black veil for a month when Grey’s Anatomy (finally…) ends – I hadn’t really considered, until the recent closure announcement came amidst the celebrations of Twift’s new album, that there is also a sadness in saying goodbye to soundtrack and music that is hugely responsible for bringing a favourite show and its characters to life.
We only get to hear them aid the telling of a story for the first time once.
This is as beautiful as it is sad.
Soundtracks offer us a memory to link a song to forever, a place to go back to. So, maybe where I thought I was choosing to watch a show or a film in my downtime while my friends were clambering over each other to get their ears on the hottest new album, I was listening to music the whole time.
At this point, I submit this piece, I close my computer, and I place my head awkwardly against a moving car window (it’s probably got rain on it) as the notes of Sleepless Night’s cover of Ruby Blue rise.
Fade to black.
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