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The Sounds of Travel 7: So Flute
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France. This is a country known for its music. The stereotypical accordion tunes from atop Montmartre embodied in the soundtrack of Amélie, the ballads of Edith Piaf, and the intense lyrics of adopted icon Jacques Brel (he was actually Belgian, but the French like him so much they seem to forget). But beyond those symbolic melodies that scream French roots, there's another side to French music. One that is much more urban, cosmopolitan and chic. It's the smooth, electro-jazz, slightly funky sounds of contemporary bands like St. Germain.
It was a quintessential French evening: a bottle of regional Muscat to start the night, a whole chicken, cooked in butter and herbs fresh out of the oven, a salad with fresh greens and a homemade vinaigrette, a Burgundy to go with the chicken and a cacophony of French voices all giving their politically charged opinions on everything from GMOs to the American President. The upbeat sound of the saxophone in "So Flute" hung in the air, dancing around in the vibrant ambiance.
All of a sudden I felt instantly chic and European. Just listening to "So Flute" let me shed my hippie college roots and automatically develop into that classy, cultured young adult I'd always wanted to be. From that night on I couldn't stop listening to St. Germain.
When I returned home after my semester abroad I would try and recreate these dinner parties. I would tell people that we would eat at nine, they looked at me as if I was crazy and sad they would come at six; Americans unlike the French are not trained for late night dinner parties. I got frustrated that the only white wine I could find for an aperitif was a Californian Chardonnay; trust me, after wine of Alsace, it's not the same. But thanks to my pre-departure stop at FNAC (the French Borders) at least I could have "So Flute" play in the background. Maybe I didn't feel so chic in my shared college house, but at least I could import the French urban vibe. At least it was better than drowning my sorrows in a bottle of bad red.
Returning home, especially after extended stays when you have completely immersed yourself in your host culture, can be hard. Sometimes, to get over that culture shock -- no matter how long you've been back -- all it takes is a melody reminiscent of your time there. Instantly you are taken back to a certain moment, a certain feeling and for a second all that cultural confusion just slips away. "So Flute" is that song for me and whenever I play it I am whisked away to my favorite vibes of France.
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