Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Rhythm of the Soul

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music."
~Aldous Huxley

As if the movie, Into the Wild wasn't enough to yank my spirit, the soundtrack to it completely struck a passionate chord in me (pun intended). So, yesterday I was dumbstruck when I heard the explanation for Eddie Vedder being left off the Oscar nominations list. The judging panel disqualified his soundtrack because it was "too song-based." Huh? Well, we'd never want a soundtrack to be song-based, now would we?!

"I believe in music the way some people believe in fairy tales."
~August Rush

Music has always been a big part of my life - even early on, from Mom's love of all things classical, to Dad's penchant for anything Johnny Cash. When I was six years old, my folks added a piano to our household. It was determined at the time that I was still a bit too young for lessons, but I taugh myself the basic notes and would plunk simple tunes anyway. Whenever my sister would be forced to practice, I'd pay attention to what she was learning. When Mom would play, I'd sit on the floor and wonder at the notion that someone so reticent could be so taken by melody. When it was my turn to begin lessons, I wanted to learn it all right away. Of course, I didn't want to practice, I just wanted to instantly know it. So, I grew up being influenced by anything from classical music, to the rock n' roll my brothers would play.

Eric Clapton was my first true love - he always will be. Eric, if you're reading this (hey, you never know!), come on over so I can hug you and thank you.

When I was twelve, I fell madly in love with John Denver's music (being twelve, I was madly in love with John Denver too). Since his songs didn't translate well to piano, I took it upon myself to teach myself guitar chords so I could play his music. That was a great revelation to me, because, unlike a 500 lb piano, I could haul a guitar wherever I went.

"You know what music is? Harmonic connection between all living beings."
~August Rush

Listening to music took me outside of myself. It took me away from the muck of daily life. I could hold hands with a man across the sea. I could relate to heroin addicts. I could hike mountains I'd never seen. I could fall in love with faces I didn't know. I could understand that there was something bigger than me in this life.

Playing music saved my life. It never mattered how low I felt, or what was happening. Once I sat down at the piano and plunked the first few notes, I was gone. Gone far down a road where no one else could follow - it was just me and the melody. My piano was my very best friend in the world - it didn't care who I was, or what I looked like, or what my attitude might be. It was always there, just waiting for me. It never refused me.
We got shame, we got pain
We got blame, we all a little bit insane
So that's why I sing this song, ya know, because
Everyone deserves music, sweet music
Everyone deserves music, sweet music

~Michael Franti, Everyone Deserves Music

Somewhere, during the last gasping stages of my dying marriage (back in the mid-90s), I lost my connection with music. I quit listening, and I quit playing. Something inside me was broken. My self-imposed exile was to last for 12 years. It's not that I couldn't appreciate a good tune, I just couldn't... give myself over to it, as I'd used to. John bought me a piano a few years ago, but something inside me just wouldn't let me get into it. It's a regret of mine, largely because I never had a chance to really share that side of myself with John and he so loved music.

"Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life, bringing peace, abolishing strife."
~Kahlil Gibran

In the months following John's death, I've reconnected with my ol' best friend - my piano. I think it came, partly, because I so needed to seek solace anywhere I could find it. It occured to me that piano had always been one of those places, so why not give it a try again? It worked. Now I can't come home from a day in the world and deny myself the moments (ok, sometimes hours) of pleasure I get from tripping down that melodic road. It's funny, in my old age, I find it difficult to play other people's music - I just can't get in touch with it somehow, can't translate it. So, I write my own, and it feels so good. If no one ever hears these tunes I write, so what. The action is the thing.

"Blessed is he who can still sing
when the theater is empty
and the orchestra is gone."
~Calvin Miller, The Singer

I sing again too. I've always loved to sing, and somewhere along the line, I stopped. Ridiculous. Absurd. Now I catch myself humming all day long, singing snippets of songs that buzz through my head like espresso-freaked hummingbirds. I don't care who hears my voice (I used to!). I don't care who likes it or doesn't. Music is as infectious as laughter. Hum an old standard, and often someone else's eyes will light up and they'll say, "Oh man, great tune!" or "God, I remember that song... I used to listen to it when..." It opens hearts and opens doors. It's everywhere we go.

"The music is all around you, all you have to do is listen."
~August Rush

I'm so glad the music didn't give up on me. I'm so glad it's still there inside me.

But when the night is falling
And you cant find a friend
feel your tree is breaking
Just bend
You've got the music in you
Don't let go
You've got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don't give up
You've got a reason to live
Can't forget
We only get what we give
~New Radicals, You've Got the Music in You

Dance with me....


  1. "Theyyyyyyyy calllllll her... SECON HAND ROSE! She's just a SECOND HAND ROSE!!"

    And the hits just keep onnnnnnnnn comin'!!!

    So glad the muse has been re-awakened ~

  2. Oh good gawwwd! I know you're going to hold that tape over my head for the rest of my life. Just to keep me honest, I reckon!

    "Oh... OH! Look... there it goes!"

    I wonder if Sheryl Crowe had a day like that....?

  3. No worries about "holding it over you" dear-- remember, my OWN greatest hits are also immortalized on said tape & I would have to thrust my own gypsy warblings into the cosmos in order to "out" YOU :~S

    FYI: Is it so wrong that I snorted out loud over my word verification ("gween")? Made me think back to nannying days & lisping little ones ~


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