Memoirs of a Commercial Girlhood

Learning to market yourself at a young age.

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  1. I am a daughter of commercials. To me, every melody has a product attached, every chord a plastic wrapper, a leather interior, a glistening drop of retsyn. I have come to believe in the art behind consumerism, in the you-can-dance-to-itness that fuels the enthusiasm of target markets. I grew up in a family that talked during the television show and was hushed for the ads. I grew up with an understanding of the artistry of salesmanship sternly imprinted in that channel that runs between the ear and optic nerve. My father is a composer. The formative years of his career, which he began at age forty, after years in academia, were spent writing commercial jingles. Despite his subsequent forays into more “serious” forms, orchestral arranging, brief stints with the Boston Pops, commercials are still his mainstay, the softer bread, the better butter.

    My father is a man whose mind cannot disengage itself from the sounds in the air. He cannot carry on conversations in loud restaurants. He cannot hear a person speaking if a radio is playing in the room. As his child, I heard music before I heard words. I understood rhythm before human speech, tonality before meaning. The song that lives permanently in my subconscious is not a lullaby or a nursery rhyme, but a jingle for Alamo Bank of Texas. This was my father’s first commercial venture. We lived in Austin at the time. I can still hear the particulars of the mix, the 100 percent Texas production, the mid-seventies vocals (Neil Sedaka ...