Sunday, December 1, 2013

Why Music Matters

I was never blessed with the ability to produce any sort of music , be it with instruments or my own voice; at least in no form that would make people do anything but cringe in discomfort. However my love for music has been present for almost as long as I can remember. I recall my very first cassette: Michael Jackson’s Thriller. What a way to start, with a timeless classic. Like most people my musical tastes were molded in no small thanks to my parents. I have fond memories of hearing R.E.M. and The Beatles on road trips and hearing my dad sing along to Steven Tyler with an uncanny likeness. I attribute my toleration and occasional fancy of artists like Shania Twain, Celine Dion and Sheryl Crow to my beautiful mother.

I was not extremely precocious in my musical interests. I remember I did not buy my first cassette (Montel Jordan) until maybe 6th grade. My first CD ever purchased however had a strong influence on what would become a special relationship with artists and their music. I bought Beastie Boys License to Ill. I soon decided I needed every song ever made by them. This led me to feel the need to acquire every piece of extant hip-hop I could get my hands on, no matter how daunting the task. My compact disc collection grew as did my love for music and its fascinating and intimate lyrics.

A few years passed by and something glorious came along: CD Burners. Suddenly my collection grew at an alarming rate. Friendships were formed on the basis of CD collections, and the potential for borrowing. Other relationships hung in the balance as CD’s were held onto for acrimoniously long periods of time.
My pre-teens and early forming years were mostly spent in Phoenix, in a rather urban culture. As you might expect, I listened to little else besides rap and whatever my Dad had subconsciously poured into my DNA. Things changed for me when I moved to rural Utah.

Almost no one in my new cultural milieu listened to rap, at least not with the same intensity that I was used to. But soon I was introduced to a whole other world of music. I blame that introduction on a band that I still listen to 12 years later, Brand New.

At this point my musical tastes are less pretentious. They are open to anything and everything that sounds good. It may be German music, it may be the occasional bluegrass B-side or it may just be a terrible Pop song you cannot get out of your head.

What some years of life experience and geographical changes have taught me is that music transcends barriers; it destroys stereotypes and opens up gates to previously secret gardens. Music can speak to us in a way that nothing else can. There is something mysterious and majestic about the way it can coincide with every emotion we could possibly be feeling. When a girl makes it a point to destroy my universe, I know what songs I want to listen to. When I am getting ready to play in an important basketball game, I am equally fastidious in my song selection. Sometimes I am just feeling solitary and pensive. But no matter how alone I want to be, I want my iPod to be present.

Life is a constant and seemingly never ending series of hiccups, problems, triumphs, losses and pitfalls; and music seems to help us through all of it. When we hear certain lyrics, it almost seems as if they were written entirely for us and our own personal crucibles. It is encouraging to know someone out there is feeling or has felt like we do. Music is another reminder that we are not alone. And as we listen to the dichotomous nature of most CD’s or playlists, we are reminded that it does get better. Certain verses and refrains remind us that hope is around the corner and that the tunnel of darkness has a secret door.

I view music much in the same way I view literature. I believe that the more we read the more we are motivated and inspired. With that same token, a life bereft of music is an uninspired life, a life without dancing and without whimsy. Another reason music is so powerful is because it acts like plutonium. It is the only thing that really allows us to time travel. How many times have you heard a song and immediately been brought back to that very moment. I have heard songs that literally elicit old aromas and erstwhile feelings; songs that bring back moments of joy you had forgotten, melodically falling upon you like warm water.

Music is power. It is love, and it is anything else you want it to be. But like anything else, it is only what we make of it. Let us use music to lift us up out of depression, not sink us further into the quicksand of sadness. Let us share good music with those that need a cheerful reminder. If you can sing, sing. If you can play, play. If you can dance, dance. But no matter the situation, let there be music.