Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Interstellar and Time Away

Regrettably, I haven't documented the trials and triumphs of EJ’s infancy as meticulously as I did her sister P. This is due in no small part to the job hunt, but also because EJ had a little trouble getting off the ground in the beginning. She had, to use the pediatric term, colic - which really means that she cried a lot.

And she did cry - a lot. Her sensitive tummy often made her inconsolable, and because of this the late night feedings that I came to enjoy with P were not quite as peaceful as I anticipated. It seemed pointless to have music playing when she clearly could not have heard it over her own screaming. When she finally did calm down, my wife and I both welcomed the quiet.

I had every intention of shaping EJ’s musical world as I have her sister's, but she clearly was going to take a different path.  To start, I started playing “wind down” music between dinner and bedtime.  Music for 18 Musicians was often first choice, followed closely by an album that I had purchased last year during the last push of the Superhero Theme Project but that only clicked for me earlier this year - Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar soundtrack.

This soundtrack received quite a bit of acclaim when it was released, and even though I had not seen the movie, it impressed me when I put it in rotation. In many ways, Interstellar struck me as a relatively traditional soundtrack when compared to Zimmer's more recent work, with strings and organs outlining its grandiose meditations rather than the earth-shattering intensity of Inception or the physics-bending atmospherics of The Dark Knight. Despite its more orthodox approach, it relayed a sense of exploratory fascination that clearly reflected the movie’s scope, even capturing the ominous wonder of a water planet with mountain-sized tsunamis covering its entire surface. 

I thought the Interstellar soundtrack was breathtakingly beautiful at the time, but it did not stick. I shelved it until I finally saw the movie earlier this year. Interstellar, as a film, affected me. It is certainly good science fiction, but one of its underlying messages spoke to me personally in a way that took me off guard, and it drastically altered my perception of its soundtrack.

The movie contains a plot line where, due to the tenets of relativity and space travel, a lifetime passes for a child while her parent experiences hours. In one scene, the father leaves his daughter to go on a mission that he is convinced is for the good of mankind, but that will most likely take him away from her for a substantial part of her lifetime.  As he drives away, she begs him to stay.

This scenario alludes to a real-world paradox that many parents face: they go off to work for the benefit of their families, an act which takes them away from their families. There is a deep, dark fear that we will look up one day from our work to find the children that we have been working so hard for have grown and that we never really took the time to know them. The elegant beauty of this soundtrack also harbors the pain and angst of this heartbreaking struggle. It felt even more meaningful when I went back to work a mere four weeks after EJ’s birth and was expected to act as if nothing had happened. Or as if I was getting more than three hours sleep a night.

Pediatricians say that most infants will grow out of colic, and fortunately that has been the case for EJ. She has turned a corner in the past few weeks and is much more peaceful in the evenings, so I came up with an alternate plan for late night music. Since my old ZEN MP3 jukebox finally bit the dust last year, decided to use my standalone bluetooth speaker.  It sounds surprisingly good for how small it is, so I uploaded five or six appropriate albums (Including Interstellar) on my phone. I was excited about cycling through them.

By this time, however, we were working on staging the house for its sale and the bluetooth speaker got unintentionally packed away in storage in the process. It won’t be seen again for several months. Looks like EJ’s Interstellar experience may be coming back at a future date - but probably in less than seven years.

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