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Odes

Ode to Music

Music is my life. A large part of why I believe I don’t really live in the real world is because of music. I live it. There is nothing that can capture my feelings so completely. I am enraptured, enraged, elated, melancholy, inspired, desolate and hopeful, pumped up and relaxed. For every emotion, there is a song. The words reach out and capture my soul. In this alone, I feel the full force of human ingenuity and spirituality. My music collection is nearly always on shuffle and features among the most random assortment of music. It is not uncommon to shuffle from rap to Disney to pop to classical to classic rock to Broadway to techno, and I will sing to all of it. Singing to instrumental pieces or interludes is one of the main reasons that I make a lot of inarticulate noises. There are constantly new songs to discover, and there are songs that have been with me since before I was born. There are songs that have been there at the most momentous moments of my life, and there are those that I would hear only one time and be happy for it. I nearly always wake up with a song stuck in my head, but it has been years since this has been in any way vexing. The songs make me believe that I may actually dream. They are the time at which I am most religious and superstitious. They have gotten me through the hardest times, but more importantly, they have taken me to the highest I have ever been. Music is a sure sign of my love, for there have been fewer people than fingers for which my heart has sung, for which every song fits exactly or adapts naturally to the person I love. It is as though the entire world has been composing music for centuries to sing to that person who is more special to me than all the world. In the complete application of music to love lies both a fundamental connection to the humans and the world and a journey into a world of fantasy that only passingly resembles the actual. Music is the thing by which I first defined myself as a person to discover who I truly am. It has forged friendships. It has ended relationships. It starts, accompanies, and ends journeys. It is the key element in bringing drama and majesty to movies, shows, and plays. The musical itself is among the best of dramatic performances, and the critics who say this has no verisimilitude have never spent time on a mountain or in a canyon with me. Music gives me tranquility in the chaos. I am calmer and happier when listening to music. I can easily suffer and pass off small annoyances. It can reflect the environment in which I find myself, or it can define it. It is an aid to memory and learning. It is art, pure and true. It is eternal and ephemeral.

“Am I Not Merciful?” playing as I waited my thesis defense results; “Fight Song” overcoming depression at the top of a mountain; : “Marco Polo” cleaning the house; “O Death” after seeing a murder of crows next to the haunted temple, “Down Once More” after conquering a 14,000 foot mountain in the snow in July; “300 all’hora” starting a road trip; “Say It Right” and “What Goes Around Comes Around” starting every morning in Yellowstone; “Out there” accompanied by a great friend and adventure buddy; “Bad” defining my life as a happy 2 year old; “Beneath a Phrygian Sky” bringing me to the first tears shed not in sorrow; “Macarena” on a cousin’s trampoline; “Carmina Baurana” as the finishing sprint of a 400 meter and a random solo in Hadrian’s Villa; “Defying Gravity” as I redefined myself professionally; “Mamma Mia” being the easiest song to get stuck in my head; “Our Love Is Here To Stay” reverberating in splash mountain at Disney Land; Gregorian Chant in situ with seven seconds of reverberation; “Crazy Train” bringing the crowd to life at the Lyons Folk Festival; these are among so many powerful memories that are associated with songs for me.

I have been in and out of choirs since I was seven. I have never mastered sight-reading, and my rhythm can be shaky, but there is so much joy for me in singing. I would much rather belt a song than dance and can be happy at concerts and dances sitting on the side singing to myself. Choir is what I call my sanity time. It is the two hours a week that I can truly take a break from the world and everything in it that I do. It just is, and it is joyful. I have some of my closest friends from choirs I have sung in. They are the reason I own a tuxedo. There is a refined, sophistication to being in choir, particularly the singing of early polyphonic music. There is intellectual challenge and appeasement. There is Latin and various other languages to enjoy. There is the unity, melody, and harmony as they interchange in a playful way. There is the act of bringing much more drama and emotion to the traditional. There is finding novelty in the ancient. Singing challenges me to make better sound and to reach for the high and low notes. On the other hand, I love to sing to the radio, or nowadays, ipods on shuffle. This love was instilled by my mom, particularly helping with mailings at her work. It is the way in which I sing the most, hours daily, and it matters not what the trends in music are. There are genera that I prefer over others, and some of this has to do with what I can sing easily and make sound good, but music can move you in whatever form.

I listen to music as often as I am able. I may go deaf from listening to music on earbuds and blasting it at home or in the car, but I am joyfully committed to this eventuality and think it summarily worth the risk. There is something slightly amiss with my world if I don’t have an ear-bud in. Almost never does it go to two because I was taught well that one must be aware of and participate in the world as well. I try very hard to pull the earbud when interacting with others so that they know that I am engaged and value them. When I am on my own though, there is nothing between me and some music. I listen to it while reading, cooking, doing chores, working in the yard, even sleeping many nights. Tranquil music can get me excited. Intense music at the right volume can lure me to sleep. It is the best way to spend a long car ride, and many of my favorite trips have included hours and hours of driving and singing. It is a way to stay entertained when the world would otherwise become a bore or a terror to the psyche. There is health and healing in the music. There is euphoria. As Isadore of Seville once stated, “Tam turpis erat musicam nescire quam litteras.” It was as shameful to not know music as letters, and this may be my favorite quote of all time for its eloquent reflection of much of my philosophy in life.