Breaking up is hard to do, but it may be harder on one's record collection than on the heart. In acknowledgement of how real life can change our perception of music, two Brooklyn residents, Bryan Bruchman, 26, and Mary Phillips-Sandy, 29, have founded Ruinedmusic.com, a Web site that features essays about music destroyed by bad memories.
"There's no reason you shouldn't enjoy your music collection just because somebody dropped you," Ms. Phillips-Sandy said. Their Web site may have a cathartic impact: Their description of the site optimistically proclaims: "Tell us your story. Reclaim your music."
"People have many creative ways of ruining songs for each other," Ms. Phillips-Sandy said, giving the example of a DJ who played the Pet Shop Boys' song "You Were Always On My Mind" every time her ex-boyfriend entered a club in which she was playing.
Another contributor on the site recalls the time in junior high school when he got into an argument with his first girlfriend while they were at a Peter Gabriel concert in Ohio in 1987. "In Your Eyes" is now for him unlistenable.
Originally the organizers intended to write about songs that people could not stand anymore because the tunes reminded them of old boyfriends or girlfriends. But readers convinced Ms. Phillips-Sandy and Mr. Bruchman to expand the notion of ruined music to include songs wrecked by bad memories of roommates, siblings, neighbors, and any one else.
For example, they include the essay by a man named Alf, who describes how the song "Love Touch" by Rod Stewart was ruined for him in the summer of 1986. While two cavities were being filled, his dentist asked him to listen to music on a Walkman. "I put on the big spongy orange headphones," writes Alf, who recalled how the drill went "through the cavity and into the raw nerve beneath." Now, every time Alf hears that song, he recalls that painful experience.
Ruinedmusic.com uses a hand-lettered font designed to give the same feeling of a personally made mixed tape, Ms. Phillips-Sandy said.Mr. Bruchman, who is an artist, drew the Web site's logo of a record player with a record album broken down the middle.
"A lot of our friends are musicians," Ms. Phillips-Sandy said. Those friends were among the first people that the two contacted when sending out requests for submissions in May.
The Web site came about when the two were discussing the reasons for not listening to a song. "It's a nice way to combine our interests," Ms. Phillips-Sandy said. The Web site allows them to pool their talents. She is a freelance writer who is likely to listen to such singers as Patsy Cline. He is a guitarist who was once in a high school band in Holmdel, N.J., but now is in Man in Gray, a rock band that is scheduled to play at the Midwest Music Summit August 12 in Indianapolis.
Mr. Bruchman is also a music blogger (www.subinev.com) who follows the New York scene. "He's the guy who tells you about some local band and then three weeks later you see them in the newspaper," Ms. Phillips-Sandy said.
One unusual feature about his music blog is that Mr. Bruchman takes press photos of various bands and redraws them with the musicians as robots.
Mr. Bruchman and Ms. Sandy-Phillips met at a rock show at Irving Plaza featuring Sleater-Kinney and the Thermals. The couple recently moved from Park Slope to Carroll Gardens. Ms. Phillips-Sandy received her MFA from Columbia University, where she researched old mills in Maine.She has her own blog www.millwhistle.com.
But on Ruinedmusic.com she got a chance to write about a song that was ruined for her: "Cecilia." "I cringe when I hear that song," she said, reflecting on how the Simon and Garfunkel tune reminded her of "a bad, insecure time" in her life when she was with her first boyfriend, whom she really never liked but "thought I should have one because all the cool people did." He wanted to be a mime and would try to impress her by pretending to be a medieval court jester. He had made a tape and announced to her one day when they were in the car headed to the coast of Maine that "This is our song."
What makes good essays for their site? Mr. Bruchman said,"It's especially good if it's one that people will be familiar with." An editor's note spells out that they are not seeking music reviews.
They ask writers not to get too specific with information, thus preserving some level of anonymity. Also, they advise, "Please do not pepper your story with strange and possibly illegal expressions of threat and/or revenge."