Music and melody; beat. That’s what moves us. What brings us together. That’s what we want to share. What feels good. And that’s what helps you speak to someone when you can’t do it another way. When you don’t know how. You can find that harmony. I’ve felt, loved and understood music on that level my whole life.
I started mucking around on my mom’s piano when I was little and not long after that I began hiding away in my room with her original Beatles 33’s. Listening to them from dawn to dusk on my little record player with the Winnie the Pooh decals. She passed to me everything she knew from early Elvis on up. My dad was of a different mindset entirely with a Dean Martin and Mills Brothers bent. Two of my absolute favorites. He always thought he was being pretty modern when we listened to Jim Croce together. It was all we did in my house the majority of the time. Music. I took care of 70’s R&B on my own and I grew up on the potluck that is the 80’s and 90’s…and here we are. Spectrum covered.
By the time I was 12, I was listening differently than I had growing up. I couldn’t make out words anymore and I was lucky if I could decipher an approximate time signature or any specific instruments at all. Frustrating and heartbreaking still don’t quite cover it. I knew the voices which filled in a lot of holes for me on the music I was used to. God forbid new songs came out I wanted to hear or needed to know to stay in the mix. I’d have to track down the sheet music or, yes, have my mom send for it. In that glorious trouble free existence pre-internet, things such as this were costly, difficult and time consuming. If not impossible.
I drove my family crazy because, on old equipment, any hint of bass made it impossible for me to make sense of what was going on. I was constantly calibrating dials with my ear to the speakers trying to find that sweet spot that would let the most in. Treble was my friend back in the day until I found my footing (and technology got a boost). So were the thousand different pairs of headphones I went through trying to find just the right ones. Which is still true today.
I have a special speaker setup in my car that feeds only me whenever possible. Every chance I get. My settings, my volume, my readout. At the touch of a button. It’s not perfect by a longshot. But It’s easier. I give it over to my kids and passengers when it comes up. Otherwise, that’s my time. I’ve filled my house with bluetooth speakers and same goes. That’s my domain.
I often joke about how I basically do not know one song from the last five years. And shortly before that, it’s a little sketchy too. Unless I really wanted to know it or something was given to me. Which doesn’t happen anymore but who knows. One day. Maybe. Otherwise, I just stick to what I know.
I’ve studied classical music theory since I was 19. That’s my home and that’s what feels the best. That’s the code that helps modern music fall together for me. And it takes care of itself.
Anything else is an undertaking of great proportions to learn. To really know a song. Once I know a voice, I go from there. In these ‘modern’ times, I hit up lyrics first. First and foremost. That’s the poetry, that’s the message and the meaning. That’s what is speaking to you. Then I check the arrangement whenever possible. It’s easier when I know the instruments first and what the intention was. Think of it as desperately needing to read something in a different language. Well…wouldn’t it be easier going in if you learned the language first. Probably. Arrangements of course hand you melody, and just about everything else, on a silver platter. I fill in spots like bass and any nuance with subsequent run throughs. In multiple sweet spots. And then I put all the pieces together myself. When I’m ready. It’s laborious to say the least. But saying it’s rewarding is an understatement.
By the time I’m through, I’ve either made enemies or great friends with any given piece or song. I’ve worked damn hard at it. I’ve had to listen intently. I’ve had to feel it. Commit it to memory. I’ve made relationships with the music I care about. Over time. Relationships that started with words. Ones that started with those lyrics. And took forever for me to learn. I’ll spare you the analogy I’m avoiding laying out here. But I need to say the rest of this…
When I ‘give’ music to someone. Something so important to me. It’s the same, to me, as giving a gift. It’s the same, to me, as giving away a part of my heart. It gives away a piece of me. It’s important. These vibrations my body had taken in and been trained to. To me, it means everything. When it doesn’t come back to me. Or when it’s dirtied or disolored in those ways it can be; you know the ones. That song dies. It stops existing in my heart the way it once did. There’s no revival of it later on. It’s gone. Pain replaces the time I put into it, and the joy I once felt for it. Each one just feels like acute sickness after that.
The same happens for any gift given to me. It’s special and beyond meaningful. It bonds me to that person. But once it’s discolored in that way, the lonliest silence would be preferred over the associated hurt.
Music is one of the most eloquent and expressive ways I know to communicate with someone I care for. If I can’t be near them. When I get to be near them. If I’m not sure how to say something. If I’m scared. If I’m euphoric. Everything. This year alone, nearly 100 songs died for me. Ones I’d known, and ones I hadn’t. Not quite an entire language obliterated. But damn close. Each time, my world falls a little more silent. Less colorful. Less joyful.
I don’t want to lose any more of these words. I don’t want to lose anymore of this language that I know so well. So I will hold on to it for myself. And keep it. It will be a long time before I feel able to share it with someone again. No matter when it is, I may piece it together differently than most, but I know I will always start with those lyrics. Where the meaning is. Because that’s what speaks to me. Because that’s the real poetry. And because I need someone who makes me love music again. Someone who hears it exactly like I do.