Tag Archive: Music

The Music Inside

I remember a time.  One of innocent discovery.  Where the day rise would meet the world with scintillating energy.  Even the moments when grief would overwhelm, there was a belief that the next day should be better.  And it would.  The rawness of the time seemed to reflect the unfinished places where I was on the edge of becoming.  There were few constants, save change and music.  My pulse would race or transform into the sea after a raging storm, glassy and calm.  There was always music to mark the time.  Music and its transcendent relationship with truth and emotion waited for my meandering life to straighten, guided me as I took each step.  Too often, the music I hear in my heart is from that time in my life.  Through the throes of pain and heartbreak, disappointment, fear, and the unknown I learned for moments to embrace the uniqueness of being human.  Abject joys, rich discovery of truth, and fond loves all call those resonant chords home.  Melodies that needed no words coupled with lyrics that stand alone spoke of every transition, gave a home to the transient pieces of my life… Until I started to grow up, and move forward.  In many ways, the music is all that is left of the boy that I once was.  Aside from random scribblings and the occasional keepsake, there are few things that tie me to the beloved people and special times.  I know my memory will fail me someday, and I pray often that before it does that I might shuffle off this mortal coil.  I cannot bear not to remember the grace and mercy and love in those times.  So, I listen to music, even songs that I have never enjoyed, just because they set me in my place now.  Without the tones and touch, I would be a wanderer without a past.  At times, I have been just that.  To realign who I am to be, sometimes I must just immerse myself in harmony.  There I find that the true music in me, is not just what I have heard oh these many years, but the symphony of memory and emotion and feeling and grace. 

Well, music is important to me.  I’m sure you’ve figured this out by now.  However, there’s something weird about how music tends to teach me about others.  And sometimes others, teach me about the music.  (there’s a like, duh, sound in my head right now)

Anyway, I would like to give a… well weird example of what I’m talking about.  My father, who I think is one of the greatest of people on the planet… I’m biased, by the way,  introduced me to artists like Bob Dylan, and James Taylor.  Those two are ones that I would say were storytellers.  I love storytellers that are musicians.  To me, I learned that good lyrics, and good instrumentation makes good music…. missing one or the other makes music wanting… (in my opinion anyway.)

So, when I was younger, I would sit and listen to those albums… (yes, before tapes and CD’s)  And Bob Dylan’s voice was so weird and strange, I would listen and absorb it all.  The militant undercurrent mixed with his remarkable storytelling intrigued me, much like I suppose he grabbed my father’s attention.  His music I got almost immediately, and as I’ve aged and grown up and experienced the world, I learn more about the songs that I listened to when I was younger, and I see more in them.

However, when it came to James Taylor, I didn’t have that easy of a time.  I knew his music was striking, and his stories were important, but “I just didn’t get it”.  It’s weird to have an intellectual concept of what something is, but without the emotional undercurrent… it’s just not the same.  So I bonded with my father around Dylan’s music and Taylor’s wasn’t so much the connection.

Several years later, I met someone who would teach me the guitar.  That sounds kind of hokey, but at the time almost everyone around me was learning guitar for all sorts of reasons.  Most of the friends I had at the time were learning how to contribute in worship groups or churches, and we all were plucking away at our respective guitars.  One such person took me under her wing and showed me something about my father…. through the music we played.

It’s funny to think about it, but I first learned the guitar playing Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls, REM, Sting, a wonderful unknown artist by the name of Mark Heard, one of his good friends Pierce Pettis, and of all people James Taylor.  My friend and I would sit and play these songs, she would try to sing, I would try not to (trust me, it’s a good idea) and would enjoy the process of learning.

Usually I wanted to learn to play those things that sounded great to my ears, songs that I immediately gravitated to… but one day, my friend Kim said… “Charles, let’s play some James Taylor.”  Now, for a learning guitar player, the strumming of his chords and picking patterns were just easy to do, but since there was this block from my younger days… I didn’t readily warm to the idea.

However, we started playing… and Kim would say things like, “um… no, this is a slower song”, or something to the effect that I really hadn’t heard the songs.  So, she played them for me… then we tried to play them.  And my eyes opened up.  Now, I’m not saying the songs from these artists are like gospel, but you can tell when an artist is actually singing from a truthful place in their lives, and when they’re not.  At least, I usually can.  So, I started to hear the lyrics…. Sweet Baby, James… Fire and Rain… etc etc etc.   And I learned something about my father that day.  I learned then that Taylor’s music echoed some of the longing and tenderness and a little sadness that I had seen sometimes in my father and his actions.  To this day, I don’t think that I’ve ever thanked Kim for opening my eyes… and a little more of my heart towards my father.

Now I think what I’ve written is a little strange.  It’s easier to talk it out for me on this issue.  But I find it amazing that sometimes when you hear someone’s words you get to learn something special about those you know…

Have you ever learned about someone through a song?  Ever had your eyes opened up in that kind of way?

I’m so blessed to have learned that little lesson…. what do you think?


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