Music connects us. We hear a song and it can take us back to a certain time and a particular place, conjure up a long-forgotten memory or unearth a feeling previously buried under many other experiences. Or maybe just the trade-mark sound of a band helps us to recall different circumstances.
I first heard CoCo and the Butterfields at a festival. Each time I hear their music I get a sense of lazy Summer days with friends sipping wine in a sunbathed Oxfordshire field. Connected with thousands of likeminded music lovers. I may misremember the sun but everything else is definitely true!
When I work I like to have music playing. I know that I won’t be listening fully, but it is there for when I get distracted from the task in hand. I tune in for a while, then return to work. While I work I often put my music collection on shuffle. It becomes my personal radio station for my workday.
Today, as I worked, I became aware of a CoCo and the Butterfields track playing. I stopped and listened. I was taken far from the restrictions of March 2020: no gatherings, social distancing, no toilet roll, worrying exactly what 2 metres look like, being allowed out of the house only to shop or exercise. Suddenly I was free, back at a festival, surrounded by friends and strangers (less than 2 metres away) enjoying freedom, contact, music and the sun.
Then, almost immediately, the vision of such past privileges disappeared, as this particular track, ‘Alone’, forged a new connection. I’ve heard this song many times but today the chorus hit well below the proverbial belt…
‘La, La, La, La I’m all alone,’
…I was winded. Brought low to face the current context of coronavirus and Covid-19.
It reminded me of the melancholy with which I had woken this morning. I woke knowing that I would not be in the presence of loved ones for months. Knowing that if they fell ill, I would not be able to look after them. Birthdays would pass without great celebration. Simple contact, face to face contact, would no longer be the norm. The long-established patterns and rhythms of my life had become unrecognisable – strange, solitudinous and slowly stretching to some unknown horizon.
I pushed through. Determined not to succumb, I put on music to lift my spirits, and I sat at my desk and worked…
‘La, La, La, La I’m all alone,’
I am led to believe (by the seemingly endless river of statistics that are dredged up for us by news programmes) that at this moment in time one quarter of the world’s population is living under lockdown.
‘La, La, La, La I’m all alone,
it’s a big wide world but everyone’s stuck at home’
I guess behind the statistics, the feeling that I woke with this morning was that I’m unconnected. My relationships with family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues had been blow apart by the Covid-19 virus and the subsequent restrictions.
As I write I am being constantly interrupted by the buzzing of my phone. Notification after notification that friends have posted on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or that they are having a House Party. Work and personal emails are announced at the top right-hand corner of my computer screen like breaking news and I have at least three Zoom meetings in my diary for tomorrow!
However big the world is and however many of us are stuck at home we live in the most connected of eras. We have never been so connected. So why did I wake feeling alone and unconnected?
Our connection through Social Media is a small fraction of true connection. It is fast-moving and fleeting. It reduces our emotions to likes, dislikes, thumbs up or down, hearts or fierce faces. It offers us a wide-angle lens on life, while companies entice us to focus on carefully and personally profiled adverts for goods and services we can’t do without! Escapism disguised as connection.
To be honest listening to CoCo and the Butterfields, it was probably at first this sense of escapism that touched me. Yet, if the only connection is to be reminded of the festival vibe, then it’s a selfish connection. I’m not really connected to others. Rather I am at the centre of a wide-angle view of the festival and those around me are extras in my escapism!
As I listened to ‘Alone’ I was forced into another connection; with today, with lockdown, with the current restrictions, with others.
‘it’s a big wide world but everyone’s stuck at home’
Because of the restrictions and the sheer numbers of us in lockdown we can’t share the same physical space, but we do share the space of being alone and being stuck at home. This song won’t forever remind me of Coronavirus, and it will remind me of more than a festival. It will forever remind me that I am connected with others.
Who knows in what kind of mood I will wake tomorrow? If I wake under the cloud of melancholy, I will play Alone and remind myself that I am not alone! I will find that connection to people I love, people I know, and people I have never met who are waking, stuck at home, separated from family and friends and with the same restrictions in their freedoms.
Music connects us. Songs will always remind us of times, people and particular places. And long may we be in the centre of those memories. Yet, we must allow music to connect us in deeper ways too. Not just to rose-tinted memories but to humanity, not just to happiness but to an understanding that loneliness, isolation and fear connect us too, and in this, we are not alone!