Monday, June 8, 2015

There was something in the air that night

Everytime I hear Leia’s theme from the John Williams Star Wars soundtrack I am moved.

Every time. Without fail.

I watched a tribute to John Williams. (I am a self-described nerd) The narrator described his music this way: “ it goes to every place the heart can reach and the notes can speak.”

That is how I believe music is. It goes places beyond what we can describe.  It is everywhere around us. On the radio. In the showers. In our heads. In our hearts. It transports us. Annoys us. Comforts us. Catches us off guard. Lifts us up. 

Even guides us.

How many times have you been in a situation where you didn’t know what to do? Or where to go? And then you realize that there is song you are humming that points the way?

Music describes us too. Have you ever heard a song on the radio that describes exactly how you are feeling at that moment better than you ever could?

It goes to places that words by themselves can’t go. It fills in the cracks. Gives us hope. Is there for us when the world comes crashing down.

It is primal in nature. What is it in our DNA that lights up when we hear a drum core? Or a harp? Think about it. A harp is a universal sound of peace. I can’t think of any harp battle cries can you?

It rocks us to sleep. Sticks to our hearts.  Dreams with us. Remembers things we have forgotten.

And travels through time.

I am convinced that somewhere between years 15 and 25 of your life you met your music mate. I believe that something in your high school or college heart set itself in place.  It locked itself in your soul and helped formed you into the adult that you are.

Was it the first time you heard “Smells like teen spirit”? Or heard the first few chords of “Smoke on the Water?” Or heard that high trumpet sound to the opening of Star Wars? 

Do you remember your high school crush when “Everything I do I do it for you” plays on an easy listening station? Or smile whenever you hear Alanis Morsette's “Jagged Little Pill” because it got you through your first heartbreak?

Music reveals things to us about people we think we know.

Remember the time that a Bon Jovi or Beatles song came on the radio? That’s when mom started doing dance moves you never saw before and dad got this weird smile on his face?

Or see grandma standing in the kitchen, doing the dishes, and you hear her humming an old hymn. Now whenever I hear the song “In the Garden” I think of my grandma Lois. The two are now intertwined.

Or my other grandma, who only wanted a few things for her birthday one year and one of those things was an Abba soundtrack. She would light up whenever “Fernando” played and said how much she liked that song. I watched her murmur “there was something in the air that night.” What night she was remembering when she sang those lines is for her and her heart alone, but it made me smile and wonder more about my grandma.

What song does that for you? 

Can you image your life without music?

I can’t. I really can’t. I wouldn’t want to. It is so much about our human story. So much of my story.

I remember the first time I drove in a car by myself. It was a Wednesday night and I was driving a van to choir practice. (Yes, nerd).  I remember making a point to make a memory. I also remember that Selena’s “I could fall in love” played on the radio. Now, every time I hear that song I am my 16 year old self. I can feel my nervousness, the gloves clasping the stirring wheel. I made it safely there with Selena's help.

Music also brings us home.

Valadmir Horowitz was an accomplished Russian pianist who reached fame at a young age. He left his native Russia in 1925 at age 22 to study in the west knowing he would not be allowed back. He spent the majority of his life touring and giving recordings receiving accolades and fame. 

Then, in 1986, 60 years after he left he returned to Moscow an old man to give a concert. I watched a recording of one of his songs. It was a short two and a half minute performance of Schumann’s Traumerei. He sat down and told the story of his life to his fellow countrymen without ever saying a word. Some didn’t move an inch, others wept. They all listened. 

Music is in our bigger stories. It plays and reminds us of transcendent things. How music does this is a mystery, even if science can explain the nerouscience. I remember one of my last piano concerts I had with my piano teacher. She said the reason she taught music was that it gives a glimpse of heaven.

It can also get you through momentary hell. 

Like tonight, I was having a moment. Thinking about a future situation I was not looking forward to. Feeling the ache of something lost. I was flipping through my computer and had Itunes open. I pressed a random button and this song began to play. 

“You're not alone
Together we stand
I'll be by your side
You know I'll take your hand
When it gets cold

And it feels like the end
There's no place to go
You know I won't give in
No, I won't give in
Keep holding on 
(Avril Lavigne- Keep Holding On)

It was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. The song knew better than me.

It always does. Because it gets deep down in the core of my soul. When I hear a movie soundtrack I love or say a prayer with U2’s Bono something rumbles and shakes down there. I can’t find words to it. All I know is that I become more alive when I hear it. I also believe I become more like myself.

One last memory. A few years back I went to a Paul McCartney concert at Wrigley Field in Chicago. At one point the band took a break and Paul walked to the front of the stage. Just him and his instrument. He told the story of writing a song with John Lennon about encouraging people in the midst of the civil rights struggle. He quietly started to play and sang the words, “Blackbird singing n the dead of night…”

It was a magical moment. He had tens of thousands of people instantly captivated. Including me.

There was something in the air that night. I couldn’t describe all that was happening within me. But the music could. It always does.

Play on my heart cried.

Play on.

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