Sunday, August 23, 2009

Music = Life

For those of you that know me, you probably also know that I’m pretty into music. Rather obsessed, actually. Music is pretty much my life, which is part of why the title of this particular blog is labeled what it is. I’m not going to explain why I love music so much though (it would take way too long), or how music has changed my life (which it has). I’m going to do something a little bit different.

I want you to go listen to a song. It doesn’t really matter which song it is, just make sure you know it and like it. Listen to it once through, sing along if you like, I know I always do. Wait until it’s over, then keep reading.

What did you notice about the song? Probably the melody, the lead singer’s vocal timbre, or the sweet guitar solo during the bridge, right? Something that caught your ear the first time and every time since then that makes you love the song. Have you ever listened to the other parts of the song though? Every song is so much more than a person with a microphone, but oftentimes people don’t pay attention to anyone but the frontman, anything but the main melody.

The other day I was washing the dishes, which for me requires music. I had stuck one of my favorite albums in the cd player and was just kinda rocking out (like usual), singing along, you know, that whole deal. While I love every song on the cd, there is one in particular that’s probably my favorite- I love the words, the beat, the style, everything about this song just drew me in from the first time I heard it and still even now. This song came on, and for some unknown reason I decided not to sing along this time. Because of this decision, I had a bit of an epiphany: during the pre-chorus I heard a second melody that I had never noticed before. Seriously, this song had over 100 plays on my itunes and probably many more just from listening to the cd, and I had never noticed this other melody the guy was singing. I was missing out too, ‘cause it was really genius! So good, in fact, that I stopped the cd and played that section of pre-chorus over and over and over again because I just couldn’t get enough of it. This section of the song was transformed from really good to absolutely incredible just by adding this second melody; hearing it made me appreciate the song so much more than I originally had.

Finding this polyphonic bit in the song got me thinking a little. How had I not noticed the details like this in one of my favorite songs? What else am I missing? Is it important to hear all the little things in a song, or is the obvious melody good enough? Unfortunately none of these questions have easy answers except probably the third one, which would be YES the little things are important, but I what I can do is tie this thought into regular, everyday life.

Take a look at people- just regular people. What we see is not usually what we get. There is a depth to every person that no one can see from the outside; actually, even the people closest to you probably don’t know you as well as they think, or even as well as you think. However well you know someone there is always another side to them, a story you don’t know, something they’ve done they haven’t told you about, good or bad. Unless you can literally get inside someone’s head and hear their thoughts you’re never really going to know them completely.

On a bit of a bigger scale, life is the same. It’s kindof like listening to an uber good album for the first time- exhilarating, suspenseful, moving, and a little scary. You never know what’s going to happen but you can’t turn it off because you HAVE to know what comes next. The first time you listen to a song, however, more than likely you’re not going to hear every little detail; you’re going to pay attention to the obvious. We’re so busy listening to the melody of our lives though that we miss a ton of the good stuff: harmonies, polyphonics, transitions, key changes… it’s all there, we just don’t take the time to listen closely enough, no matter how many times we listen to the record.

I challenge you to take a few minutes and try listening to just the drums for a song (maybe the same one you listened to back at the beginning). Then maybe just the background vocals or the rhythm guitar. Listen through the song as many times as you need to really understand each part, then go back and put it all together. Sounds much better, doesn’t it? Now that you have the understanding of how many little parts go into the making of just one song you can probably appreciate how much work the artist put into it, how complicated it actually is. Do you like the song better now than you did a few minutes ago?

Take some time, get the small picture of your life. You might be surprised at what you find. Examine all that stuff you take for granted: a friend, a hobby, even the place you live. Imagine for a second that all of it was different- how different would your life be? Imagine none of it was there at all- what would be the quality of your life then? How happy do you think you would be? These seemingly tiny little things can make such a big difference in how your life turns out, just like a simple harmony can change the entire sound of a song. The big picture (the main melody) is most definitely important too, but the details can make such a huge difference in the overall sound of your song (a chunk of your life), so make sure you don’t ignore them. If you really think about how complicated your life and the people in your life are, I can just about guarantee you’ll find a new appreciation for what you have.

Music really is my life, and yours. Appreciate it for what it really is, not what you think it is.

“I have come to the realization that life is more than what I have accomplished; life is more than the realization that we have accomplished nothing at all. True success if so selfless so drown in the lyrics of your life and give up the air that you breathe; you don’t need anything.” -"Who Needs Air" by The Classic Crime

[This, by the way, is a fabulous song, but not the one I was referring to at the beginning of the blog.]

-- Rachel