I guess I feel like writing semi-odd posts today. Or maybe if not “odd”, then certainly unusual, a bit outside of the “norm” one might find on an Asperger’s-lens-themed blog. (Do we get extra points for creativity or oddity?) 🙂
I wanted to dust off an older post because looking back, I found it to be somehow incomplete, and I feel that I owe some explanation.
I guess I’ll start with the title, which in itself my seem cryptic. What does “Asperger’s soundtrack” mean, anyway? I’ll explain…
My life has been colored with music since before I was born (seriously, it has; although I’m the first musician that I’m aware of in my family tree, my mom would actually listen to music and put headphones on her belly when she was pregnant with me) 🙂
And ever since, my life has been influenced, shaped, swayed, and bent by the auditory landscape that is music.
Predictably, music became a primary interest of mine, as well as an extensive collectible.
Music eventually became a method by which I could communicate more effectively, and also a way in which I could experience the world more completely. It also became an anchor of sorts, to plant roots of memories in my mind; certain songs take me back to certain time periods in my life, and all of the internal sensations I experienced then come flooding back for an encore.
Music also became a source of self-therapy; listening to the combination of melodies, harmonies, rhythms, instrumentation, and lyrics, perfectly crafted and gelled together like an amazing recipe, became a channel through which I could experience and process emotion (and thoughts) more constructively.
This held especially true during my own “discovery phase” of Asperger’s. That discovery phase brought the torrents of emotion I’ve written about in previous posts, and music provided a “stim”, in a way–a focal point through which to elicit and flesh out that wide spectrum of emotions that bubbled (and sometimes shot) to the surface. There is indeed a list of songs that mirrored and beautifully expressed what I was feeling and thinking.
Because English words don’t always match up or suffice to describe what I’m thinking or feeling, I’ll take each song on that list and attempt to explain what it meant to me. My hope in doing this is that maybe it can provide the same release and therapy for someone out there, either now or in the future. I may not get it perfect and it may not be clearly understandable, but I’m going to do my best. 🙂
“Mad World” by Gary Jules – This song accurately illustrates how I felt as a child, especially in kindergarten and the first few grades, as I tried to do my best, which was never good enough. I gazed at the other children, who interacted and cooperated so effortlessly and wondered why I was different. That was the beginning of my observation of the “Mad World” around me that still holds true for me to the present day.
“One Man Army” by Our Lady Peace relates to what is, at times, my view of the world and my response thereto. I often do see much of the rest of the world as filled with “insincere” “plastic people”. I often do feel like I’m a Warrior of One, frequently locked into a situation where it feels like Me Against The World, constantly defending myself, constantly justifying myself, and up until recently, constantly scolding and drilling myself. I’ve often felt emotionally like a soldier, who had to swallow the hurt and pride and become tougher and stronger. And the vibe I get from this song is that that One Man Army gets the last laugh, although I wouldn’t physically carry out the situation I interpreted in the song.
“Clumsy” by Our Lady Peace conveys (to me) the desire to have that one friend you can lean on for support, but with the disappointing reminder that even they can fall short. I’ve never been especially clingy to anyone, feeling perfectly content and competent to entertain myself and exist on my own. The title of the song is less symbolic, but also carries meaning: I really am clumsy.
“If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot expresses what I’d like to be able to say to other people, especially those close to me. I’ve often wished they could read my mind; that would make expressing my thoughts and feelings a lot less difficult. The general mood or tone of the song is kind of wistful and tragic, yet loving and tender, and that perfectly sets the vibe of how I feel toward these people.
“Dreamland” by Saint Low is a pretty-yet-melancholy college-alternative-rock ditty that resonated with me; I understood a cloudy, fuzzy, “lost” childhood, laced at times with dysfunction and laced very often with confusion. There’s also a theme of betrayal (“silly me / thought we were a team”) and of course, the main chorus (“living in a Dreamland”) had literal meaning to me, especially the much-younger Aspie-me.
“Alone” by Colin Newman is a very accurate description of how I’ve felt. Starting with the title, “Alone” is pretty much self-explanatory. The lyrics are cryptic and beautiful, preferring to talk around something painful, rather than flatly state it head-on.
But the clues are there, regardless. Passages such as “too much generosity”, “a theater mask of hostility attracts” (I put on my theater mask; many Aspies are excellent actors and actresses as a method of survival; and like many Aspie/autistic people, I endured a lot of hostility), “assaults occur” (although he says “infrequently”, while for many years, mine were daily), I was “moved to tears” frequently, and yet I (tried to) “retain a sense of humor”. The music is beautiful, and you can almost hear the anguish and emotional torture. The melody is simple because it stands on its own. It’s a beautiful backdrop for the lyrics and what (I think) they intend to express.
“Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode doesn’t need too much explanation. The title is pretty literal: I do enjoy silence. The lyrics don’t disappoint, either. Lines such as “words like violence”, “come crashing in / to my little world / painful to me / pierce right through me” are very self-evident to me. The rest of the song continues to paint a relate-able picture (“feelings are intense / words are trivial”). These lyrics have held true and representative of what I’ve felt at times throughout my life.
“In the Waiting Line” by Zero 7 is an underrated, wistful song that very much speaks to me. The music has an air of regret, and the lyrics have an air of quiet chaos; “everyone’s saying different things to me”, “everyone’s taking everything they can” and “nothing is real” begins to describe some of the confusion and surreality I’ve felt, whether as a young child, an adolescent, or an adult.
“Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” by Crash Test Dummies got airplay, but I wonder how many people actually attempted to dissect its meaning. I’m aware of some excellent lengthy, in-depth discussions on the web, in which people have bandied about their (well-conceived) theories.
The way I interpret this song is not too different from what’s been said elsewhere online; I perceive an attempt at raising awareness of kids who experience the world differently in different ways, and sometimes feel marked or cursed, self-conscious at the attention…or sometimes going through ordinary life, harboring an internal secret that no one else seems to understand, and trying to maintain subtlety.
Another thing the three children in the song have in common is that (the way I understand it), none of them did anything to bring their situation on themselves. These events/characteristics just sort of happened to them…kind of like us Aspie/autistic people.
“People Are Strange” by the Doors seems very accurate to me, because through our eyes, the world is indeed strange, and the average person is very different from us. And sometimes, we feel like strangers (hence, websites such as WrongPlanet).
“It’s Oh So Quiet” by Bjork – Simplistically, the title describes the way I prefer my environment. I can’t necessarily relate to how she describes the experience of falling in love (mine was about 180 degrees apart from hers), but at least the song is partially representative.
“Army of Me” by Bjork echoes the sentiment I have built up toward people who complain or criticize me, in response to enduring such onslaught so chronically. The way I interpret the song is similar to a meltdown (the “you’ll meet an army of me”) in response to a trigger (“if you complain once more”).
There’s also a possible theme of exhaustion (“your rescue squad / is too exhausted”), which could theoretically have been brought on by our acting on our emotional empathy (which we often do have at least enough of), and sustaining such an effort for too long, until we’re spent.
“Stereo” by the Watchmen – I have never heard this song in the US–only in Canada–which is a damn shame, because it’s an amazing song. I identified instantly with at least a good part of it, especially the part in which he says he’s “all hooked up wrong”. Sometimes I can be “afraid of new technology” (I’m sure I’ll screw it up, since technology often misbehaves when I’m using it), which of course is a simplistic literal interpretation, while the real message is more symbolic (he’s basically afraid of being neglected, abandoned, forgotten, and/or replaced). While I don’t typically have anxiety issues along those lines, I do often feel cold, prickly, unlikable, and thus cast to the sidelines, never a major part of anything, and my efforts often forgotten or overlooked altogether.
“Protection” by Massive Attack is an amazing semi-brooding, semi-peaceful song. The lyrics are relatively matter-of-fact, and yet elegant at the same time. Passages such as “this girl I know…don’t believe anyone can help her” rang semi-true for me, as I sometimes felt like no one could reach me. Most didn’t care to try; others did try and some occasionally succeeded, although that was rare.
And then there’s the deep friendship she describes, in which a (probably platonic?) male and female lean on each other for support, and even hug each other in understanding.
“Teardrop” by Massive Attack was the incredible opening theme song to the TV show House MD. It does indeed have lyrics, although the show only spliced together the very beginning and the end of the song. The lyrics are magical and symbolic, and I’m not entirely sure what they mean, so they’re open to plenty of interpretation.
My interpretation of “feathers on my breath” through an Aspie lens might be a case where I’m trying to say something, but it’s not having the impact or significance that I wanted. “Black flowers blossom” could symbolize some of the darker thoughts that begin to unfold in response to bullying. “Teardrop on the fire” might relate to trying to express emotion (the teardrop) but being overwhelmed by a barren, hostile, fiery, aggressive world (the fire)…possibly reinforcing the Lack of Impact theme.
“Maybelle” by Ida is a beautiful and shimmering college-folk-rock tune that describes tender-but-sad(?) moments in a relationship, a phenomenon that I’m plenty familiar with. “Am I still the one / you wanted me to be?” might pertain to some of the self-doubt that some Asperger’s people feel, especially in the arena of relationships. “Would you still / look right through me” may relate to an inability to communicate effectively (kind of like the Lack of Impact theme in the previous song), or likely an inability to relate, either on the part of the Aspie his/herself, or their partner.
“Everything Is Automatic” by Matthew Good (another talented Canadian musician whose music hardly ever–if at all–got US radio attention) seems to me to be a commentary on the “rest of the world”; the lyrics seem potentially very Aspie-like (arm-chair diagnosis, I know, slap my hand, but it might be true).
The chorus “Everybody it’s all right / everything is automatic” could be construed to be almost a patronizing, “there there…you have your appliances that do things for you and now you no longer have to think for yourself”, almost like an example of how we sometimes view the NT world: unthinking, essentially going through the motions of life, often without any deeper of thought. “Everything is skin deep” might be linked to how we often perceive the neurotypical value placed on surface appearances.
“Would” by Alice In Chains might contain a few strings that could be seen interestingly through an Aspie lens. “Into the flood again” could describe an intense emotional current, over which we have no control (such as maybe a meltdown?); “try to see it once my way” underscores (to me) that there’s mind-blindness on both sides (meaning that both those on and off the spectrum have a hard time with cognitive empathy, the activity of seeing the other’s point of view.
“Rearview Mirror” by Pearl Jam spoke to me a lot during my high school years. The lyrics in this song, too, talk more around painful topics than about them directly. For example, he felt he had to endure what he couldn’t forgive or forget, which is open to interpretation; the way I experienced it, this rang very true regarding classmate bullying or some family criticism or shouting matches.
“Alive” by Pearl Jam is one of the keystone anthems of anyone who has survived any of a variety of emotional/physical traumas or injuries. The idea that “I’m still alive” reinforces the cliche (but truth) that whatever doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.
“Why Go” by Pearl Jam might be more of an Aspie-lensed theme song for previous generations, in which if we were “low-functioning” enough (as assumed by conventional professionals), we might have been institutionalized, imprisoned, or locked up in some other way. In this song, there’s also a harsh (and well-deserved) criticism of some of the mental health “officials” that make erroneous judgments due to their uncalled-for bias, and it’s their patients who pay the highest price.
“You’re Standing On My Neck” by Splendora is actually the album cut of the theme song from MTV’s “Daria” show of the late 1990s. (I still like and watch that show; I’m not ashamed LOL). The title itself is pretty clear: she feels like she’s being proverbially suffocated, stifled, unable to be herself without ending up under scrutiny and judgment.
And then listen to the lyrics, through (one version of) an Aspie lens: “this is my stop / got to get off / I may go pop” (which might symbolize feeling overwhelmed at times) and “I’ve got to be direct” (a preference for being straightforward or, dare I say, blunt).
“Around the Sun” by REM is probably one of their best songs in their later career. It’s buried at the end of the album, the very last track. Michael Stipe frequently does share a glaring, striking resemblance to an Aspie, and some have speculated that he might actually be one (another Armchair Dx, I know…deal with it: sometimes it’s all we have, especially if they’re unaware, or if they’re aware but keeping it on the down-low).
This song was therapeutic for me, in that I felt it mirrored my desire to seek the truth (“I want the sun to shine on me / I want the truth to set me free”), my desire to shout a good message or thought-provoking question from the mountaintops, in order to ignite awareness and point out injustice, in order to make the world a better place (“Give me a voice so strong / I can question what I have seen”).
And “I wish the followers would lead” might indeed be interpreted as a dream of an Spectrum Utopia, in which the tables were turned and Asperger’s/autistic people ran the world instead. 🙂
You may be thinking, “wow, she’s way off base!” And if so, that’s OK; each person’s interpretation may be different.
I included these songs and wrote these posts in case someone else may find the same reassurance, validation, or therapy that I did. ❤