Sunday, December 16, 2007

Nostalgia Part 3


So close to Christmas, at Borders we have Holiday music on all the time. I know that most of my co-workers can't stand it, and for the most part, only the contemporary groups like TSO or Manneheim are tolerated. And those are fine, because those groups take the idea of Christmas and the holiday season (with all the emotions that go along with it) seriously. A good blend of secular, religious, and new Christmas music that throws the unexpected in with the familiar. When you go to places like Kroger or whereever, the majority of Christmas tunes you hear come from old crooners like Perry Como or Andy Williams. We know that Bing Crosby is dreaming of a White Christmas, because somewhere on Earth that song is being played right now. So I got to thinking, why is it that, while millions of other groups can cover the old classics, that those songs being played on retail overheads are the traditional songs, with the traditional lyrics (whether or not they are the religious or merely the secular is a thought for another day), and all seamlessly brought together to bring nostalgia and delight to those shoppers who are trying to buy just the right thing for their loved ones.

And perhaps that feeling is exactly why you never hear modern day versions of Christmas classics in retail stores. Nostalgia is not brought about by Coldplay singing Chestnuts Roasting, or the Spice Girls decking the halls. It is a note, a feeling brought about by the familiarity of the old singers. A deliberately created feeling, nostalgia is. Because at this point in the year, it is the music producers that try to incorporate the old classics into holiday muzak to create the yearning for the olden days, when people could afford to get presents and the food on the table was large and home cooked (which is advantageous to grocery stores).

It sounds like I'm being cynical towards the feeling of nostalgia, and if you read my other postings on the subject, there are times when I am. But the nostalgic feelings that are real and genuine are often indistinguishable from the ones created by Hollywood or the music producers whose sole purpose is to sell products, through the TV or walking down the halls of malls throughout the land.

While I'm on the subject, I find that nostalgia is not just defined as the yearning of things past, of cultural simplicity, of children running down the dirt road playing with something without batteries. Often, nostalgia is the yearning for these things, but placed in an ideal world. Not just the past, of happier times of childhood (which, and let's face it, not everyone, or almost no one, has a happy childhood), but rather the times that we would like for that childhood to be. Sure, I never climbed a tree when I was living in Oklahoma, and while I'm not heartbroken because I didn't, there is a sense of loss that that part of my childhood was missing. This is the feeling of nostalgia, of missing things that never happened. And so when we start to think of these things, when we get nostalgic, it is obviously the parts of our childhood that we never got to fulfill that makes wish we could go back and relive those times. That is nostalgia. And it's depressing, but it's often a sweet sadness. It is pain and pleasure all rolled into one. Just like most emotions; you can't have one without the other.

The group Counting Crows said:

"The price of a memory is the memory of the sorrow it brings."

I think he said it right.

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