Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Life Soundtrack, Part One

Q: What does a teacher do on the first day of summer vacation?

A: Anything he wants.


Last night, I decided that I needed to throw my bicycle in the back of my car in the morning, and go ride the Cape Cod Rail Trail. No sleeping in for me! (Clearly I still have not regained my senses, but at least the exercise part of my hoped-for summer routine is accounted for.) So I managed to get from home to the Trail, ride it, and get back again, all the while deftly avoiding morning and afternoon rush hour traffic. An achievement.

Happily, the parking lot at the Dennis, MA end of the CCRT was nowhere near full. I swung into a parking space, unpacked the bike, donned my helmet and a pair of earbuds, fired up the tunes, and set off. My plan: to ride about 13 miles’ worth of the Trail, from Dennis to Orleans, and then follow my trail of breadcrumbs back to my car.

I’ve ridden sections of the CCRT several times before; about the only quintessentially Cape Cod detail that you don’t pass, while traversing this beautiful route, is the wonderful amalgam of classy charm and blatant tourist-trappism that is downtown Chatham. Oh, and a lighthouse (the trail doesn’t get near the actual seashore, sadly). Other than that: beaches? Check. (The edge of a lake, but it counts.) Woods? Check. Cape style homes? Check. (Well obviously.) Vegetation that is neither particularly green nor particularly lush? Check, too. (I remember being on a family vacation on the Cape at about age seven, running barefoot out of the cottage we were renting, hitting the front lawn and thinking maybe Cape Cod grass was made out of cardboard strips. Mom!? It’s not soft!!)

And one of my usual reasons for liking the Trail so much is that I can spend three or four hours surrounded by nothing but the sounds of nature. And the occasional conversation between cheerful me and people coming the other way: “Morning!” “<*grunt*>”. So, like I say, nothing but the sounds of nature.

So, the firing-up of the tunes was the new wrinkle in all this. If I’m biking in the city, I leave my ears unstopped, so that I can notice details like cars about to bump into me, things like that. But this morning, I thought I’d try the “build-your-own soundtrack” exercise.

In the car, I do this all the time. I carry rather a lot of CDs in the car, and if I need to blast a certain kind of music to match the mood of the day, I can. And I freely admit that in response to the knowledge that I’m about to arrive at a particularly good-looking stretch of roadway, my nerd self has popped in a CD of some appropriately epic-sounding movie score, just to make sure the “nature appreciation moment” does not go unaccompanied.

This isn’t good, is it?

I mean, God’s mighty creation can probably speak for itself without having this, or this, or this blaring at it.

Ah well. With luck, many years from now, if this ends up being identified as my life’s greatest failing, … then it will have been an upright and virtuous life. (Multiple people have accused me of not having any other vices, anyway.)


So last night, I assembled a playlist of tunes for my little MP3 player, tunes which I thought would work well as I pedaled my way through Cape Cod loveliness … as I achieved athletic activity … as the beautiful scenery unfolded before me …

Intriguing. Some items that I thought would work, did. Some … didn’t. And at all times, I had to be careful not to hum along (or at least when other humans were within earshot). No need to disturb other people’s morning routine …

Aaron Copland’s “Letter From Home” was a good way to start.

A nine-minute suite of music from the movie “Forrest Gump” could’ve done with some pruning between minutes five and seven.

Several tunes by the “cutting-edge contra dance band” Assembly (who should be far better-known than they are) got me down the path really efficiently.

Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd playing “O Pato” was an experiment, and an unexpectedly successful one.

Hmm. Strangely enough, I didn’t include any of the tunes from the afore-chronicled official 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics album.

Because I am who I am, I had to throw some John Williams into this. His harmonica-melody theme from “The Sugarland Express” was exactly right … but strangely enough, the “Flying” theme from E.T. wasn’t. I think it was just that the brain said “inspiration!” and the knees said, “we’re givin’ her all she’s got, Captain”.

I thought maybe the Keb’ Mo’ tunes would be an interesting experiment. Turns out, I think next time I should just load the MP3 player up with only Keb’ Mo’ tunes.

This one, from Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, was great for the homestretch (not exactly a downhill).

And I always enjoy Randy Newman’s music, but, for reasons similar to the flop of the E.T. clip, this item from the score of “The Natural” didn’t work and it should have.


So, in preparation for my next Ride of Substance … anyone out there have any better ideas about what makes great road music?


June 26, 2013 - Posted by | music, travel | , , , , , , , ,

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