My profile has been up on their website for a couple of weeks now, with one omission. Eileen asks us all to nominate a theme song, and I have been dithering about this in a rather childish way. How do you nominate a theme song that seems to sum you up for all the visitors to the site? Of course we define ourselves to ourselves and others every day, but that process of definition depends on choice: the fact you can choose one song one day, another the next. One day you can wear your best black tailored suit (ok your only suit), for the talk I gave last night; another day the pink cardigan.
BABEL looks like a very cool group (yes, perhaps within the field of medieval studies the stakes aren't very high, but this is probably the coolest organised group of medievalists there is), but my musical tastes aren't particularly cool, so it's tricky. I'm on a slow but steady learning curve with opera, for example, and have always loved baroque music. I'm not so at home with the romantics, but I like Beethoven, Mahler and the real Strauss. I have some good compilations of swing and jazz for parties; I'm really enjoying re-discovering big 80s rock with Joel; and have immense respect for a good pop song, for the sheer pleasure of singing along with him in the car. Some of the music I love best has been given to me... But in the end, the idea of choosing a theme song is hard because it makes me feel like an adolescent defining themselves on facebook. Or the "this is me" moment of a child rehearsing the foods they like and don't like to eat.
So I was tempted just to ignore Eileen's follow-up invitation to nominate a song, and bypass this moment of self-identification.
But then I remembered that one of the whole points about BABEL is to let go of some of the old ways, and particularly to let go of some of the old ways of thinking about oneself and one's relation to the profession (though I can't help noticing that most of the other members have neither song NOR picture...).
So I'm reading this as an invitation to let go of that perpetual academic anxiety about what people will think of you (your thesis, your book, your comments on your student's thesis, your clothes, your question at the seminar, that joke you made in the last meeting, and of course, your song choice), so in the end I just chose the song that I've played most in the last week or so — Madonna's Ray of Light — which I like for its atmospherics, its dance/trance feel, and the sing-a-long vocals above the pacy rhythms.
Here's the video: