Just had another fab massage by one of the expert final-year students at WCCMT. After the assessment part of it, I was under the sheet waiting for the student intern to come back. I noticed the music was different. No longer the generic spa music or nonmusic that past students had mentioned they were dead sick of. It seemed to have been replaced by 1960s doctor’s office Muzak. In my head danced visions of 1950s housewives and plastic-covered sofas in empty living rooms.
The next song was a change from the doctor waiting room music, the elevator music, though. It was a pseudo-classical arrangement of “Hey, it’s a beautiful day.” Still sappy as hell, but without the taint of actual Muzak. After that came Chopin. I flinched. It was like a can of precooked noodles in sauce next to Duck a l’orange. Yes, I’m a music fiend. I can’t ignore sounds, but least of all music. The spa music never bothered me. It was so generic, and none of the pieces went anywhere or did anything. Each of these pieces today was going in a different direction.
The Duck a l’orange was followed — the Chopin was followed by a balance sheet of all the safest and most boring notes on the planet, by Kenny G. Kind of like paper on a roll, with a delicate print to give it a hint of character. Good to wipe your mouth on after the duck, I suppose. Duck can be a bit rich and almost greasy. After Kenny G’s account, the soundtrack of my massage swept right back into classical music, an instrumental version of the aria of Madame Butterfly. The familiar strains danced elegantly to their conclusion, and I was taut with anticipation as to what would come next. I tried to relax, because I was getting a massage and that’s my job in that room. I couldn’t help but flinch, though, when the next sound I heard was apparently pan pipes of the Andes – no, wait, this must be Yanni. I think so, anyway. It was a kitsch masterpiece of clattering hammer dulcimer and trembling flute sounds, and towards the end even some folky vocals. I had to picture Madame Butterfly crying in that bathroom in that point. I gasped.
“Does that hurt?” asked the student. “No, it’s just the music messing with my head.” Puccini followed by a kitsch masterpiece. I must know what radio station — or whatever this is. I see nothing in common between these pieces, except that they are all light in texture and mood. The Chopin was very restrained, an old muddy recording, not a flashy close-miked performance where you can hear the very wood and metal of the piano humming.
Yanni gave way to some pablum with forgettable vocals and lyrics – I did try to remember them, but the intense pressure on my quadratus lumborum and piriformis muscles obliterated the words. I couldn’t help giggling. “You okay?” “It sounds like Paul McCartney on Valium, after a lobotomy.” McCartney can be great, and he can be a marshmallow, but he could never sound like this bad imitation. Not unless he was on his deathbed with dementia, as I have seen my mother, and probably not even then.
The final piece was some kind of near bebop jazz. Something with actually some character. I’d never heard this one before, and I suspect it’s Chet Baker, of whom I’ve never been a fan. Thelonious Monk is more my style, and Elvis Costello, and JS Bach, dubstep, and doumbek solos. I also love Chopin’s intensity, close-miked, but, yes, give me intensity! Passion!
This bizarre sequence of music that, individually, I would never choose to listen to, is something I definitely do want to hear again, though not particularly during a massage. I want to be able to listen to this at home, so it can spur me into a bizarre and humourous sense of reverie and creative play. It’s the opposite of what I would ever choose to listen to, and a bizarre mix. I can’t imagine where it came from and I must ask at the front desk, since my charming student is not a music fan and has no clue. He was just sick of the spa music like everyone else.
I ask at the front desk, before leaving. The staff person tells me it’s a mix of relaxation music that one of the therapists put together, and it’s on shuffle. I could create such a bizarre thing myself, because clearly it’s not a radio station I can tune into. This has been a red-letter music day, and I am going to fall asleep with a silly grin on my face, later. So glad I didn’t cancel this massage today. I’m not sure this soundtrack will last. It’s so bizarre. I won’t be the only person who’s going to have cultural chaos in the brain from it, will I?