Different Modes of Exploration #6: Music
Over the last few weeks, I’ve compiled all my iTunes music into one library, resulting in about 15,000 songs and somewhere near 50 days worth of music. Combined with 200 or so CDs lying around in my basement listening area, I could lock myself in a room for two months and finally hear every song the digital age has bestowed on me. And then I could emerge, only to turn on Spotify or Pandora or some other great music lovers’ haven, and lose myself for years, if not an entire decade. Beware, I just might do this.
Why do I mention this musical materialism? Some time in the last year, I’ve affirmed for myself that music is the highest and most diverse art form. Sure, as a man of words I would like to claim that poetry and storytelling and non-fiction navel gazing steal the prize. But I can humbly and loudly admit that the journey music guides us on is one of the most spectacular, and we don’t even leave home to join such a tour.
Despite being relatively tone deaf and most certainly ill-equipped to keep the tempo, music saturates every element of my life. One of the last things my high school Jazz teacher said to me still rings true, “well, you’ll probably never play professionally, but you’ll always love the music, and we need people who appreciate music as much as you.” So why such a passion for composition and soulful hits and the sound of rock when I know I’ll only ever be “just a fan?”
First of all, songs have a way of defining critical moments in our lives; they become guide posts for our memory. We easily remember the first dance at our wedding by the song that played. When particular songs come on the radio, we recall the moments when we fell in love. During times of nostalgia for particular places or days long-gone, we turn to certain albums. To get the motivation needed for a tough day, we skip ahead, finding a go-to song.
And then there’s that one artist who has been by our side through it all, and listening to any of their albums is like flipping through a scrapbook of our life. For me, that artist is Bob Dylan. I can still remember the young woman, (who appears in my memory only as a fable straight from a Dylan tune), walking up to me at the bookstore of my high school, placing her headphones on my ears and saying, “this is Bob Dylan, I think you’ll love him.”
Most music lovers can recall dozens of similar moments. Like tearing the wrapper from your first vinyl, or cassette, or CD, or . . . (not sure how downloading an iTunes album matches up with such a tactile experience), and then being pleasantly surprised by songs you’d never heard before, those deep tracks. Which illustrates my second reason for this passion: music urges a profound connection between the individual listener and the art form, causing the introspection which spurs intellectual and emotional development.
Third, listening to music with other people, either live or gathered around the ‘ole record player, creates a collective experience that is difficult to replicate except by maybe a religious service (yet again, those usually include music of some form). We love listening to live music or sharing the music that brings us to life. That’s why in a “tough economy” nearly every show coming to Denver this season seems to be sold out.
This needs little explanation. Think back to your last concert when the artist played one of their major hits. Fans inevitably erupted into an unfathomable roar of energy. If we could capture the collective joy produced by these moments at every concert played this summer, I’m convinced it would be enough good-will to bring world peace, multiple times. Or consider the recent explosion of Spotify, a Facebook app dedicated to sharing music or listening to music together while running around your electronic social network.
Actually, don’t consider it. Instead, go download it, find me on Facebook, and send me your favorite song, album, or artist . . . let’s go on this collective music journey through our growing scrapbooks, through our finer, and not-so-fine memories, through the most intoxicating moments of our lives that music fortunately allows us to put on repeat.