2013-12-04

Music Is Everything It's Cracked Up To Be

I used to have this theory that music was a destructive habit I had. It seemed like every time I got really into writing and playing music, something else in my life would come unraveled. Obviously, that was not a particularly comforting thing. I love music; I don't want music to destroy my life every time I get interested in it.

It didn't occur to me for a long time, but eventually I figured out that I had the causality backwards. Things would start to go poorly in my life, and so I'd subconsciously take solace in music.

Music has a wonderful way of calming the spirit. One way it does this is by setting words and sounds to a person's feelings. It's not always easy to verbalize what you're thinking or feeling; music can help. Frank Zappa once said, "You can't always write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say, so sometimes you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." Like all art forms, music is an effort to express parts of the human condition that aren't easy to express otherwise. As we can see from that Zappa quote, even expressing those things through the medium of music can be a challenge.

It's the mark of a truly great artist that he or she can translate thoughts and feelings directly into music and say exactly what he or she has in mind. Few artists are ever that successful. But even when artists fail to convey their exact feelings, music always conveys something. That's the beauty of it. No matter what a musician does, they cannot help but communicate so long as they are playing music.

It reminds me quite a bit of the character in the old story (I thought it was Edger Allan Poe's A Descent Into The Maelstrom, but I just re-read it now, and can't seem to find that passage) who carelessly doodles and, looking down, finds that he has accidentally written the word "discovery."

So it is when I make my music. Sometimes I don't even realize what I had in mind when I started playing. Then, when I play back what I've just written, occasionally the subconscious message hits me, and the moment is magical. It's self-discovery right along side musical discovery.

This is only one aspect of music, of course, but it's a good one.