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Column 20

November 9, 2012

Another Side
By Jon Berman

Music is really to set a mood. It’s
not about selling records, the pursuit of rockstardom, or a lazy luxurious life of excess. It’s not about the long drives on the road between venues, the rest stop coffee shop breakfasts, the late night phone calls home or the waiting. Part of the job, yes. But that’s not what it’s about.

When you select a cd, sorry, let me start again. When the listener selects a track on their iPod playlist, odds are they are not thinking of the writing process of the writers, the music lessons of the musicians, or the experience drawn upon by the engineers. They may have some lyrics in their head, or a melody that they hum. But songs like Kenny Chesney’s bring us to a beach side bar and songs like Staind’s often commiserate in a problem before twisting into a message of hope.

Music often brings us back to the mood of a moment. On a warm day a few weeks ago, I was walking down the road with my headphones on and a song called “Wish” by Joshua Redman came up. And I shivered. The memory came rushing back.

I don’t remember what year it was, or even whether we lived there at the time, but we were walking down Boylston Street in the frosty afternoon, flurries of snow teasing us in late November. The wind was harsh like it always is there and I wore no gloves, so my hands were absolutely numb. But we walked by the glowing storefronts that whispered of warmth beyond their closed doors and then I heard it. From speakers above the door of a shop, Joshua Redman’s saxophone solo on his previously mentioned song was playing. I hadn’t heard it in years but knew the song after a few notes. And we stood there in the cold listening. It made the scene perfect, like a moment out of Childe Hassam’s painting, “Boston Common at Twilight”.

The music continued until the song was over. I remarked how much I missed hearing it and remembered being in a practice room memorizing it early in my career. She smiled at me, appreciating the effort if not quite understanding why anyone would do that. And we moved on from the moment.

We stopped into Marshall’s there and I bought a pair of gray fleece gloves. When we stepped back out we kissed, my now-wife-but-then-girlfriend’s nose was as cold as ice. And we headed to Starbuck’s for some hot chocolate and tea.

In the next few weeks I’ll unearth those gloves from their summer home of a plastic bin and remember the day we bought them. I’ve almost lost them many times, but, the moment!

The moment was so important to my life and a keepsake of a memory I want with my best friend that I’ve panicked, chased them down, and retrieved the gloves from wherever they escaped to. And the song that showed up in a playlist on my iPod rushed that reminder… a reminder to put on a song, set a mood, and tell her that I love her.

Jon Berman is a musician who lives in Blandford. Previous columns and contact information are available at


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