music is magic
January 13, 2010
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Being a writer words and language and books and the act of writing itself are of course a few of the things closes to my heart in this world. They are my weapons of choice so to speak. How I make sense of everything. But music is equally important. And in a way it fills a similar function. Music helps me get grounded. And by that I don’t mean that music keeps my mind settled in any way, it doesn’t tie me down, quite the opposite. Music liberates my thoughts and my emotions. It helps me through life. And as dramatic as that may sound, it’s actually true. I can give a list of albums that has been the soundtrack of my life for certain periods. Albums that I honestly think were instrumental in keeping what can arguably be referred to as my sanity. Without these records I really don’t know how I could have pulled through. And in some cases it took me years before I could listen to them again. I talked about this with a friend of mine, about how music can get so intimately connected and intertwined with your memories that you just can’t listen to certain records anymore. They are somehow tainted with the past. A past you don’t want to relive. He threw all those records away. He went into the woods and screaming at the top of his lungs he hurled them into the dark of the forest. I can fully understand this act. I can understand the cathartic effect of doing something like that. But I could never do it. Never. I need to keep all these tainted records. I need to have them with me. And it’s not because I want to dwell in the misery that they recreate, it’s because I am so immensely grateful to the people who made them. Their art guided me through a certain time in my life, helped me pull through to the other side, back to firm ground, so how could I ever throw that art away? I am not a religious person, but for me that would be blasphemy. And I also know that there will come a day when I can listen to that record without the pain. When I can once again really listen to the music and appreciate all those qualities that drew me to it in the first place. Because I still love these records. I just can’t listen to them.
And there are other records that also have the effect of time travel, but that evoke only positive emotions. That take you back to moments in your life that were just great. Songs that put a silly smile on your face every time you hear them. Records are like time machines. One chord and your back. And there is no defense. And that is the effect music has. It manages to penetrate all the layers and really get down to the core. It hits you in the heart on a more emotional level than any other form of art. It reaches all those hidden places deep within.
I wonder if the people who make music realize exactly what they do? If they realize just what an enormous impact they have on other peoples lives? What a completely magical gift it is that they give. I hope they do. I hope that they are aware of the absolutely crucial nature of their trade.
My best friend is a musician and we talk about music a lot. Talk about bands we like, who is the better bass player and we make up dream bands or collaborations we would love to hear. Like Beastie Boys and Mike Patton. Those kinds of conversations that two music geeks can have for hours on end without ever getting bored. But we also talk a lot about his music. And I always try to describe the feeling it evokes in me. I actually don’t know that much about music per se, I can’t play an instrument and I can’t read music, and therefore I can’t talk about chords or pitches or notes, but I can talk about emotions. I can try to describe how it grabs me. How sometimes when he plays it feels like the music reaches into my very soul and grabs it, grabs my heart. How all it takes are a few notes to shoot me on a trip way out into the universe. I soar, I fly and I feel. I feel so deeply and so intensely. It’s like rapture. And that is what I try to put into words. Which of course never really works, but I keep trying. Because I want him to know what he really does. That it is magic.
And essentially I think that’s what music is – magic. Shamanism. Humanity has always made music and I think this is the reason. Music grabs you like nothing else. It’s the shortcut to the soul, to the heart. And our ancestors knew that. Most religions know that. It’s one of the heritages from our pagan past. Music is fundamentally human. It’s one of our most efficient means of communication. You can convey emotions through music. They come across in spite of language differences. A friend of mine lost his sister a few years ago and he made a song about his loss. I played that song to the aforementioned best friend who doesn’t speak one word of the language in which this song is sung, but he still understood that this was a song about heartbreaking loss and desperately missing someone. Language was in a way superfluous.
I honestly think music is a form of magic. Because music helps like nothing else. There are days when it feels like the only thing that makes it possible to go on is that one song. And only that song helps. It’s like balm for the soul. Something that just helps you to exist. And there is nothing except music that can do this. Nothing.