“No matter how lost you are, music can bring you home.”
-“The Music Never Stopped”, the film
Since I received my radio here at South Bay Correctional, I have had to establish a humbled approach to my music exploration. MP3 players have yet to be recognized as necessary for inmates. I personally believe that if rehabilitation is a goal of the correctional system, a nominal amount of music choice would be beneficial to the mental health of inmates. But I suppose an FM radio is much better than nothing. Back to basics!
Throughout my life I’ve moved with the technological times of music. I had an AM/FM boombox until I upgraded to the Sony Discman CD Player. That lasted me through the years of Kazaa, Limewire, and hundreds of burnt albums and emo mixtapes. Eventually, I was able to put multiple CDs on one of those early MP3 players with one gigabyte prior to the Apple age of iTunes and iPods. Finally I could mix sets on Traktor and have a library stocked with hundreds of gigabytes of music on my Western Digital external hardrive. These forces of habit are now out of reach. So, I make the most of the moment.
I turn to my radio and embrace some of the styles and genres that are played at certain times on certain days. Luckily, Boston has some of the most eclectic stations around. It is not all pop, country, dance hits, urban beats, and magic oldies. Although, I admit that in jail there is a time and a place for any kind of music for yours Ranchly. I am enriched by hours of classical music, traditional folk, delta blues, and late night jazz. I study the golden radiance of the musical ancestors when I write, workout, and lay in my bed half awake for hours. I have discovered blues’ legend Robert Johnson, songwriter Greg Brown, and heard Miles Davis play “Kind of Blue” with a xylophone and bongos.
Local college radio keeps me up to date with new Indie music and consistently plays songs and artists that I enjoy. I hear a lot of Bruce Springsteen, Fleet Foxes, The Arcade Fire, Talking Heads, Eddie Vedder, and the Grateful Dead. I have noticed a change in the sensitivity of my musical ear when I listen to new music or hear an old favorite song. I attribute that to a month without tunes, a slow lifestyle, and a mind cleared of clutter. When I am sitting still in my cell and I hear a song, it becomes the complete focus of my attention. Layers of sound are disentangled, and familiar sounds take me out from behind these bars to my life outside.
Emerson’s WERS Radio played “Franklin’s Tower” as the sun beamed in one afternoon. It caused my body to jump and react as Jerry Garcia’s long guitar picking soothed. I tapped my Bic ballpoint pen (which is technically contraband) in time and shuffled my feet. In my head I always change the lyrics “roll away the dew” to “roll away the doom”. As I heard the music this doth rolled away the doom from my psyche. Success! As the song ended I noticed the familiar interdimensional pulsing sounds of Radiohead.