Music Autobiography

Hell week is over. Too tired to update. Tomorrow is VITA. But here’s an essay I wrote yesterday at 3 am for my music class. It’s my music autobiography, and the prompt was to choose five songs, talk a little about each, and explain how they relate to me. Here it goes…

My name is Glen Chen and I listen to music. Music defines me as a person and reveals who I am. In the following musical autobiography, I will introduce five songs that represent my social and cultural background. These songs include “Paranoid Android,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Time,” “And Can It Be that I Should Gain,” and “Gravity.” For each paragraph, I will focus on a song and how it relates to a separate facet of my identity, as well as point out the different elements in the piece.

“Paranoid Android” is my all-time favorite song performed by my favorite band, Radiohead. Radiohead has been a huge factor in shaping my identity in an increasingly technological world. The song itself is broken up into several distinct parts that speed up and slow down, with certain parts building up to an explosion of guitars and an atonal, robotic-sounding guitar solo. The lyrics are typical Radiohead – very abstract, hard to decipher, but ultimately very powerful and meaningful. The lyrics that jump out to me the most are: “The yuppies networking/The panic, the vomit/The panic, the vomit/God loves his children.” The lyrics decry the advent of modern technology and the disgust and loneliness one feels in a world that is set in hyperspeed. “Paranoid Android” relates to me because I was born in the age of computers, the age when technologic advancements happen so fast that sometimes I just feel lost. Thus, Radiohead’s song relates to my 21st century identity as a person who appreciates technology but experiences information overload as a result of it.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen is another song that I enjoy very much. The piece is divided into three main parts consisting of a ballad, an opera, and hard rock. The lyrics tell of a man who has committed a murder and must leave his mother and face the consequences of his actions. The song is beautifully written, with ample use of instruments such as the piano, guitar, and drums. “Bohemian Rhapsody” relates to my educational identity, because I discovered this song my junior year of high school, the same year I read my favorite book, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. When I first heard the song, I immediately noticed that the storylines from the song and book were essentially the same. This made me think more about the story itself, and helped me to appreciate my AP Literature class. I wasn’t wasting time reading after all – I was learning about universal fears that translate across mediums. As a result, I have come to associate “Bohemian Rhapsody” with school and my identity as a student interested in literature and music.

I discovered Pink Floyd my junior year of high school, and their standout song to me is “Time.” The song is a journey across a person’s life and talks about how fast time becomes when a person does not put it to good use. I just love the atmosphere the song sets; by using synthesizers and singers in the background, Pink Floyd manages its signature progressive rock sound, full of yearning with a glimmer of hope. However, this song speaks to me in a different way than expected – it illustrates my identity with my family. I am very close with my family, and college was definitely a break from the past. During moments I would miss them the most, the lyrics “Home, home again/I like to be here when I can/When I come home cold and tired/It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire” remind me of the joy I’ll experience when I see them again. Thus, “Time” proves that I take high priority in maintaining my identity with my family.

As a person who grew up in the church, I was exposed to various worship songs and hymns throughout the years. I tended to like the more contemporary, hip songs, songs that were filled with guitars, drums, and the like. However, around the time I entered high school, I discovered the hymn “And Can It Be that I Should Gain” by Charles Wesley. I was touched by the lyrics and the simple message behind it. I was also intrigued by the style of the song, which was livelier than typical classic hymns. As I grew older, I came to appreciate this hymn, often sung in a group along with a single piano or keyboard. “And Can It Be that I Should Gain” relates to the religious facet of my identity, because the piece illustrates my beliefs and moral values in addition to reminding me of my second family at church.

Finally, I will talk about “Gravity” by John Mayer, the blues song that opened the doorway for me to the greats. I started listening to this song my sophomore year of high school, when I started to mellow down my musical selections from harder to slower rock. “Gravity” was the perfect example of slow, smooth rock. Very calming, emotional, and easy to listen to, this song also introduced me to the world of blues and resulted in my discoveries of blues artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. “Gravity” consists of guitars, a keyboard, and drums – the modern setup for blues and rock bands. The lyrics are simple, but convey a powerful emotion. Along with the solo, the song changed my musical identity from exclusively rock to a willingness to try other musical genres. This relates to my social background, as “Gravity” opened the avenue for me to discover new music and widen my musical tastes.

To sum up, “Paranoid Android,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Time,” “And Can It Be that I Should Gain,” and “Gravity” are all songs that represent who I am. Each song has a special story relating to my social and cultural background, and each song has synergistically built up my identity, whether it be my existence in a technology-laden world, my AP Literature classroom, my family, my church, or my musical tastes. As a result, I have become a much more knowledgeable person in the importance of music in people’s lives.

More essays to come when Glen is too lazy/tired to update his blog at randomtidbitsofthought.wordpress.com.

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