I’ll admit it: When NJ asked me to write a guest post on the topic of music, I was both intimidated and excited.
I was intimidated because NJ’s blog comes from a headspace that’s deep seated in emotions and feelings, where my blog tends to come from an analytical perspective. True, I talk about emotional responses to music, but I imagine the approach he takes with his blog is vastly different from the one I take with mine. However, the excitement I felt stemmed from the chance to write candidly about the greatest thing in the world, and those feelings are always a lot stronger than the apprehensive ones.
So let’s get to it with something that Aldous Huxley once said:
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
I didn’t read all of Brave New World, but I don’t think I need to in order to figure out what Mr. Huxley is going on about. In fact, the odds are no matter what kind of listener you are, audiophile or casual pop follower, you’ll understand what he’s going on about too.
You’ll understand it because you’ve felt in, from the very music you’ve listened to in your life.
In my 22 years alive, nothing has come close to the experiences I’ve had with music. It’s an anomaly as a form of media as well as a form of creative expression, an incredibly public experience while remaining strikingly intimate. Think about that for a moment: What other artifact can human beings experience in a crowded room, or on a lonely night drive, with said artifact retaining the ability to move one’s inner self? What other tangible thing can get a whole room dancing, or make the moon seem that much brighter? What can lift the weight of the world while giving gravity to our lives?
To my knowledge, only music can.
Regardless of the setting it’s experienced in, music is a profound presence in our lives, one that can simultaneously make us look outward and inward. With a backbeat and melody it can move mountains, heal the hurt, harness a mood, a feeling, or an experience. It can effortlessly imply a universal commonality inside one’s ears, reassuring us that we’re in this big black unknown together, even if it doesn’t seem like it. It can take you in between the shadows and spaces in your mind, while measuring out time itself within in song’s length.
I’m not a religious man, but I’d argue that creating and experiencing music is perhaps the closest we can get to the spiritual, to the cosmic that’s outside ourselves.
With the 20th Century’s advent of the 7” and the 45”, everyone suddenly had access to this magical thing, and it’s only gotten more accessible as time’s gone on. Now all we need is a radio and a dial, an iPhone, or a stereo with that mix CD you’ve been meaning to listen to. Our turntables and CD players become alters in a way, a sacred space where we ritualize our listening with great care. We listen when we’re working, when we’re moving, while we’re sleeping. We allow this thing to move through us, and because we can never touch it, taste it, see it, or smell it, we ALWAYS feel it.
I’m romanticizing it of course, but we take great care to lay these discs down, to create this playlists and mixes. Even the most flippant music consumer is aware that what these mp3s contain is special. We give these sounds our undivided attention, letting them probe the deepest parts of ourselves. We’re more open to them than we are to our loved ones, more attuned to them than the outside world.
We don’t want them ruined, marred or destroyed. We want them to last forever because, in a way, if their presence is infinite, ours will be too.
Because the final thing music does is it brings us back to moments in our lives, the places that are caught between dreaming and remembering. Better than a photograph or a journal, music takes us out of the now and puts us back into the moments that have shaped us. It allows us to travel to the memories we cherish most, the ones with most meaning, the experiences we want to resonate forever. Music takes the feelings we feel, the feelings we cannot accurately relay (even in our closest relationships), and it allows us to feel them as if no time has passed. It allows us to live lifetimes in our mind, an incredible feat for something only experienced by one of our senses.
It makes the intangible, tangible, expressing it with a grace and eloquence that human speech could never fully articulate. It is a shared well of knowledge, gleaned from all corners of the world in a countless number of ways. And when you really think about it, music ultimately explains everything there is to explain: Harmony and discord, pain and joy, love and loss.
All we have to do is listen.
Author: Michael DiGrande
Author’s Blog: This Song Starts A Craze
Mike @ Twitter: http://twitter.com/MikeDiGrande