I’ve thought a lot lately about my connection to music. Now, let me be clear about one thing up front — I have absolutely no musical talent. I am in awe of the Musician, who cannot read music, but can hear any piece of music and replicate it with effortless grace. I am amazed by the Dynamo, one of the Professor’s best friends, who is blind, but can sit down to American Idol and pick out which contestants drop a key or lose perfect pitch. (And this same Dynamo won our regional replica of the show, by the way!) For as much as I love music, I was hopeless as a child, struggling to learn the guitar that my brother and sister played with such aplomb. I could play some Christmas carols on the piano, but only be memorizing key sequence…not because I could actually wield the instrument with any real skill. As a middle school student, I did have some voice training, and even did a few solos after having been chosen to all county choir. But after 8th grade, I never pursued it, and now my singing is limited to the shower and the car, for which the people around me are most grateful.
My range of musical taste is quite wide; my Zune song list reads like a musical library, of sorts. I also have certain musical “rules,” but what do we all know about rules? They have exceptions. Examples, you ask? Well, as a “rule,” I despise country music. I respect the talent, and I admire the creativity, but listening to it for any length of time makes me want to gouge my ears with salad forks, just to put my eardrums out of their misery. However, when Kenny Chesney sings about the islands and the ocean, I will listen to him. Same goes for rap music, especially songs with gratuitous profanity* and themes of violence. (*Yes, I cuss like a sailor. But I do not shove an F-word into every line of conversation simply because I can make it fit grammatically. This, to me, is the gratuitous part, which I do not respect.) But there are a few songs by Eminem that I truly like.
Music in general affects me in profound ways. I have had “theme songs” that shift with the events of my life, for several years now, and still others that speak to me in whispers of some divine comprehension of exactly what I was feeling when I listened to it. Certain songs will bring back memories with such sharp clarity that I can almost close my eyes and be in the situation again, regardless of whether it was a blissful or a painful experience. For a time, I…lost, for lack of a better word…a few songs. The emotions and memories they elicited were too painful for me to handle, and rather than go through repeat performances of the tears and the heartbreak I associated with the melody or the lyrics, I simply eradicated those items from my Zune. What once may have been precious favorites were now removed from the temptation to see if I was “over it enough,” only to wind up with the inevitable torture of realizing that the answer was a very firm, “No. You’re not.”
One of these relics had been banished from my playlists for the past few years, and I wondered if it was finally time to reconsider it. As is my habit, I pondered this while on my commute from work, as I have a good amount of time alone to spend in my own head. I wouldn’t need to cover any emotions, or hide my true reactions if I found that I really wasn’t quite in the place I thought I was. In the first notes of the opening melody, I did feel tension in the pit of my stomach. Memories flooded back, but I was ready, and sure enough, after the initial shock, I found myself relaxing. No tears, no self loathing bubbled up in my throat. I won’t deny an emotional response as I listened to the familiar words, and felt the pull I used to feel, but it was pretty liberating to know that I had healed enough to move on. While I may not add this particular title back into my usual repertoire, I can at least say that if I hear it, I can merely sit, impassive, and listen.
Musicians who say the words I can’t always find, who write the melodies that convey my innermost feelings, all have my gratitude and my respect. I used to long to have the talent too, but I think I am almost better off being on the receptive end of things, where I can enjoy, appreciate, and then process.
Anyone who has a musician that I should be listening to? Please let me know!