I’ve been thinking about Home again. I’m beginning to really get behind the idea that home is a feeling and a sense and a mental attitude rather than a place. The latest addition to this is the role that sounds play in that feeling. Specifically I mean music and language.
I went to a local festival in town the other day. A section of street shorter than an uptown block in New York City was filled with all manner of food and drink stalls, tons of people on benches and three stages. The music was just fabulous. There was a white haired guy on a piano playing Jailhouse Rock with people dancing in the street. There was a calypso style band singing in German in the shadow of the old city gate. And I spent most of my time listening to a country-western setup. I am normally not a fan of the real twangy country, but it really reminded me of home to listen to this group belt out bluegrass, blues, honky-tonk and just plain ole’ country tunes. (even one country tune in German) I grew up in the south, but without the accent. Sure I kin twang wit’ th’ best o’ them, but I don’t naturally talk like that. But you know, listening to it tonight made me realize how much I miss hearing it.
I’ve noticed this phenomenon before. Often when I get homesick, I watch videos of folk singers online. The funny thing is that it reminds me of home, but when I was home I didn’t really care for it. So there has to be something about it that stirs up home-like feelings and these aren’t necessarily that same as things I like. Music and our accent seem to help define a part of us that sometimes we aren’t even aware of.
As I mentioned in my article on Doubt, the stress of the local language is one thing that is always present and slowly gets to me when I let it.
I live in a foreign country where English isn’t even the native language. Despite this I have a large group of english speaking friends and outside of the office I spend my time with them. One of things that struck me when moving here was all of the different flavors of English that we native speakers speak. I spend time with Kiwis and Englishmen, Canadians and Irish, and the odd Australian on top of the Germans that speak English. Even the Americans that I know here are from around the country and have different accents. Part of what makes the folk singers and the country band the other day so meaningful was indeed the accent. I missed the twangy southern accent of my youth, even though I don’t have it myself.
I love that I have so many english speaking friends and groups to hang out with. Because I have chosen to live here and be a part of the world here, it doesn’t feel like I am betraying the reason for being here. There is none of the “I live in a foreign place, I should spend my time doing foreign things.” This is my home now, so I should do what makes me happy. I don’t notice the accents of my friends as much anymore. Occasionally they say a word I don’t know, but it just gets brushed away with a “you talk funny, but I love ya’ll anyway.” It took ’til just t’other day at th’ fest-i-val to realize how much the local accent of my home had seeped into my brain and how cool it was to hear again.
Sing a Song
Music seems to go along with language in helping to define a culture. I remember a few weeks ago sitting around the table at my Kiwi friends’ house watching youtube. They would load a song or a comedy thing from New Zealand, then I would shout the name of one of my remembered bands and listen to them for a bit. It was neat to see that despite the common language the music really is different. It is in places just as folksy and twangy, but in a different way. Just for them different memories are attached to the music.
Folk music was really more of my dad’s thing when I was small. He loved it and I got to hear tons of it. Not that I disliked it, but as a teen it is uncool to like your dad’s music, especially in front of friends. Despite which even this music has seeped into my brain. As July 4 approaches again, I remember several years in a row the family going to a Mike Cross 4th of July Concert. He would play folk songs and jigs, that I would later learn were adapted from Irish tunes and ideas, and afterward fireworks. It is a cool set of memories that get dredged up when I hear “The Drunkard” or see fireworks.
So when I hear this music again, even the Texas or Tennessee style country, I remember childhood tunes. When I feel homesick I listen and remember and feel better. I still like my decision to be here. It is just cool to remember where I came from as well.
Does you crave hearing your own accent again after a while being away? How about music?
Interested in what my Kiwi friends and I were listening to? Here is a taste.
Mike Cross (Carolina): “The Drunkard”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8hp8ZjWTzc
Fred Dagg (New Zealand): “Gumboots”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rqZfTJN7d8