You learned to nourish your musical soul as a child via birthday parties, children play circles, Sunday school, or just by listening to your family’s preferences. There was a random guy that use to bike past your street, belting tunes joyously. You were fascinated by street musicians, and the way they seemed to worship their instrument of choice, as if they couldn’t sleep without it like your then current blanket, stuffed animal, or other such necessity in life. As you grew, when going to the local chain establishment back when localvorism didn’t exist, the jukebox was always cranking and you loved exploring the music you hadn’t yet heard. You got a record player. Maybe at first, you didn’t notice the radio much. Your dad might have sung along to tunes he picked off the radio while driving the family car, most likely a rundown 4-door or a low rider of sorts, careful not to be louder than the volume from the speakers. Or, you had a sibling that went for the alternative music of his or her time, and never feared the volume blasting from the speakers in the basement or his beat up car, which of course, had an amazing stereo. As you grew older, you gained your own collection, your own car stereo or other such accessories by which to listen to your favorites. You found ways to go to live shows. You may have even developed a musical talent, even if for you, that was great shower singing. This is an education, growing into your musical soul that you were born with, ready for nourishment.
Now, you might continue to sing in the shower. You may have decided that you regretted not learning an instrument and you are determined, no matter how difficult it is going to be. You’ve become so equipped that you beat up your fingertips across the strings, rubbing them raw to help them surround the strings perfectly. Or, you’ve ripped your mouth, and built a dry lower lip from the reed of a horn. You are learning how to compose music or to read it. Maybe your musical collection is becoming the envy of those who surround you.
It’s captivating, how music shapes all of us.
But, sometimes we forget, and we let it die, slowly, as time passes or we simply give it too long of a rest, and then remember to wake it up. We start again. You can tell when people have let it rest too long. You can tell when you’re speaking with someone who has lost their musical soul all together. In his book And The Mountains Echoed, author Hosseini writes, “I know now that some people feel unhappiness the way others love: privately, intensely, and without recourse.” I love that line; it’s real, but it’s also the exact way I feel about my musical soul. It consumes me, but never in the negative sense. Healing.
I took the above video while visiting NYC to go see Leonard Cohen, whom I worship, both as a musician and a poet.
I’ve always believed that all of us have musical souls. There are levels of this addiction that vary across time, cultures, mood, revolutions, and individuals, but we all have one. Sometimes, I wonder if the way artists paint is their attempt at trying to explain music to those who are no longer paying attention to their musical souls. Or, for those that have forgotten. I wonder if the perfect photo is the same as playing a perfect measure. I wonder if the American government would do a better job if they listened to music more often-together.
The other night, I was listening to The Infamous Stringdusters on E Town, and during the interview, they were asked why their latest album was much more political and environmental in its approach compared to their previous albums. They suggested that they’ve been trying to avoid those types of topics, but that with music, specifically live shows, it’s really the only avenue left where we all come together for the same thing-to enjoy music and the simple gift that it is. The reality is that these days, we don’t get together as often as we use to, but music is still something that attracts human spirits together.
As we are aware, music can be used to help our emotions: happiness, love, depression, anger. We can use it to change the world and to also change ourselves. We have. It is one of the few things that humans have invented that consistently works towards peace. Sometimes when I’m traveling and I see a frustrated, unhappy human, I just want to pass my ear buds to them, just to give them a moment of what they’ve forgotten. It’s not that I don’t get frustrated, but I have found that with my music at hand, life is just better.
Just the other day, I got the chance to hang out on Folly Beach, and as usual, it became a great series of people watching. We are so raw and free while on a beach. I find that it is one of the few locations that brings about this for everyone in attendance. We also talk a hell of a lot less. Another trend that you slam into is the habit of music. Happiness in crowds can be found everywhere, but on a beach, the consistency is numbing. This is similar to how we are with music and it’s interesting how the two are married. I had a girl to my right belting out lyrics, out of tune, to her iphone. There was a couple lying in front of me with tunes playing out loud as they caressed each other. To my far left, a volleyball game was going on and they had Zeppelin blasting in the distance. I’m not sure how many sets of headphones I saw, but the bar was competing by playing your usual beach tunes, which was making people smile and sway. As many variations as there were, it wasn’t a hectic in-your-face Panama City Beach atmosphere; I respected every inch of the 360 degrees of music that was surrounding me, not to mention the pure happiness. It is that which we need to strive for in more locations.
Tonight, I’ll be volunteering for one of my favorite public radio stations, KNBA in Anchorage, Alaska for their membership drive. I think it’s important to support public radio, but I also just love music, and anything that educates me further with my collection and research: EMusic, ETown, NPR, live shows, etc. Supporting our community music scenes in some way, in whatever way your musical soul needs, is important. Everything is connected. As I said, sometimes, we forget to embrace our musical soul and it needs to grow just like the rest of us. Discover yourself again swimming in the tunes that you love because in the end, we are at our collective best when we’ve listened to this piece of ourselves.
I went and got all dramatic again :-). Cheers everyone!