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Why music?

Posted by purplemary54 on April 11, 2012

If you’ve glanced at even one entry of this blog, then you know that I often have a very personal take on music, outside of my taste and preferences.  It sort of goes against my training as an English major and a scholar.  It’s okay to be passionate about what you study/analyze, but you shouldn’t get too personally involved.  Of course, it’s also sometimes considered bad literary scholarship to place significant emphasis on an author’s personal life when looking at his/her works.  I’ve kind of always disagreed with that.  Now, I don’t think that means that every single piece of art or literature or music is automatically autobiographical.  But nothing is created in a vacuum.  Just saying.

And nothing is experienced in a vacuum, either.  How you feel about something is often very dependent on the circumstances you first experience it under.  I was always surrounded by music.  My mother would turn on the radio or record player while she did housework.  The radio in the car was almost always on, and I slept with the radio on from a very early age.  Every single adult who has had any sort of influence over my development was a fan of some kind of music.  Sadly, most of my family is not otherwise musically inclined.  My great-grandfather was in vaudeville, and one of my cousins is quite talented (but he gets it from the 50% of his genetics that doesn’t come from my family).  That’s about it.  For the most part, none of us can carry a tune in a bucket.  But that’s never stopped us from singing along.

I admit, I’m still not quite sure why I chose music over books or movies, both of which were also extremely influential in my life.  But music seems to give me a more visceral, cathartic, emotional release than other forms of art/media.  It just seemed like a place for me to belong.  The Beatles really marked the beginning of my spiritual connection with music, but it’s never been limited to them.  And it’s not just rock and pop; I have a deep love for jazz, and I enjoy many other forms.  I literally can’t imagine a world without the “Ode to Joy” or Rhapsody in Blue, but I know it would be a lesser place for the absence.  Music is where I find god.  Some people go to church; I turn on the radio.  Or the iPod.  Or whatever listening device is handy.  I get a little twitchy when I can’t listen to music.  It’s a meditation.  I can do other things while I listen to music, but it can’t be anything that really diverts my attention.  I center around the song.  Lose myself in it.  Find myself in it.  Make sense of the universe.  Three chords and the truth.

“Take a picture of this: the fields are empty, abandoned 59 Chevy.  Layin’ in the backseat listening to Little Willie John.  Yeah, that’s when time stood still.”

Music is that endless place where the world is reduced to three and half minutes.  And when the world ends, it begins again with another track.  On and on, circling like a record on the turntable.  Maybe that’s what music is to me, a way to transcend the world.  Maybe it’s a way to remake the world.  Maybe I should just shut up a listen to the next song.


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