Soundtrack to my Life

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In 1985, my mom came home from a music appreciation class she was enrolled in at Cal State Long Beach, and she handed me a homemade cassette that some guy had given her in class (I think he might have been hitting on her!). She had already listened to it, and while she liked it, it wasn’t her cup of tea. Knowing I was always on the prowl for cassettes to tape my songs, she left it for me on my bed with a note saying “Free tape. Just erase what’s on it first.” 

The tape lay hidden under my dirty clothes for a week or so, until one day I dug it out to use for an idea I was having. I put the tape in the recorder and hit play so that I could wind out the leader. Suddenly, the most incredible sounds—not quite melodies, but yet, kind of—oozed from my speakers. My spine began to tingle, sending me into a trance-like state, and there I remained motionless for the entire length of the tape. I never recorded my idea. 

When I saw my mom again, I demanded to know who the artist was, but she didn’t know either. Worse yet, her class was over and she didn’t know how to contact the guy who gave it to her (plus, I don’t think she wanted to). So, I spent the next couple of years trying to figure out who this was. I played the tape for my friends who worked in record shops; I gave copies of it away, hoping someone would recognize who it was; basically, I was obsessed.  

Then one day I played it for a small record shop owner who said “Well, it sounds like that record Jon Hassel and Brian Eno collaborated on a few years back, but then again, it sounds a bit off.” I asked him if he had the record in question, and he did, so I bought it. I ran home, put in on my turntable and waited for the familiar ether to envelope my consciousness. It started playing, and at that point I understood the words of the record shop owner. It was playing too slow!! Wait, I mean the cassette was playing too fast! What’s happening here! It was when I cranked the turntable speed up that I realized the guy who gave my mom the tape years ago taped it at 45 rpm!!  

Possible Musics Fourth World Vol 1 by Jon Hassel and Brian Eno is the soundtrack for my life. It expresses what I feel in my soul, what I hear in my head, and what I see when I shut my eyes in silence. It’s been about twenty years, but I still can’t listen to it at 33 1/3 rpm; it has to be 45 rpm. It makes sense why the music doesn’t elevate me at 33 1/3 rpm—the frequencies that tingle my spine just don’t exist at the slower speed. 

Here is a link to one of the tracks, Ba Benzele, played at 45 rpm. Since there is no actual video for this, I’ve created a visual counterpart to go with it. To see it on youtube, where you can enlarge the screen, follow this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdpIEdF7iko Otherwise, you can just click below. So, turn the lights out, enlarge the video, and chill out for a bit.

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One Response to “Soundtrack to my Life”

  1. Maddie Says:

    Jason- I love your narrative of your search for Brian Eno and Jon Hassell. You accurately describe the trance that music can put you into, and how certain songs can evoke feelings and emotions that nothing else in this world can. I’m familiar with Brian Eno mostly because of his producing on U2 albums with Daniel Lanois- my favorites being The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. Some of the more obscure songs on those albums (i.e. Exit and Love is Blindness) evoke that sort of ambient feeling- I can still recall sitting on the living room couch with my dad’s big Koss headphones on, plugged in to the stereo just listening to those entire albums and just feeling enveloped in sound.

    Anyways, I know you’re not a big U2 fan, but that’s my own connection to the topics of Brian Eno and the feelings music can create.

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