Written November 27/28, 2016
“It’s a fundamental urge,” the father of the young adult George Bailey tells his son. He was trying to convince George that the Savings and Loans institution he ran was necessary to meet a basic human need. A house. A place to make a home. Your very own (“It’s a Wonderful Life,” produced by Frank Capra, based on the short story by Philip Van Doren Stern, “The Greatest Gift “). Here I write not about that urge, but of the discovery humans made long ago. Music. Lyrics. Combined into a song.
A fundamental urge. It’s kind of like A, B C, or 1, 2,3. I think of the wonder leaping out of the eyes of the first to discover musical notes. Then to be amazed when the thing you’re hitting makes another sound again. Then to see that playing two notes together creates a pleasing plume that delights. On the one hand music and song are not something we need to survive, like oxygen or water. On the other hand, what would life be without it?
My growing up family once was dominated a talent show. Whether we sang, played an instrument, or both, I recall at least four out of six of us involved ourselves in some sort of performance that evening. Music sings to me tunes that communicate depth of emotion and thought together. I started learning piano when I was a tween, experimented with guitar for about a year in my forties, picked up piano which I had abandoned for a time.
Excuse me a moment while I try to exalt the praises of some technical aspects of music.
I’ve written some music of late, some with, a growing number without, lyric. I marvel at how most songs can be played using just three chords. A person could play the very same chords in different order, or emphasize one note instead of another, and come up with completely unique tunes for each. So many songs, all with the same notes, all with their own rhythm, and sounds. All the variations make for a variety that is truly astounding. All from just (in Western music) seven basic notes, plus five more from sharps and flats; twelve in all, so much potential!
A lot of songs carry the same themes. Some time back one such sang this lyric in my head. “These wounds won’t seem to heal/this pain is just too real/ There’s just too much that time cannot erase” (“My Immortal” by Evanescence). As I reflected on that heart wrenching sorrow I realized we can pile up other songs like it. Johnny Cash did a cover of a Nine Inch Nails tune, the first line with this confession: “I hurt myself today/ to see if I still feel/ I focus on the pain/ the only thing that’s real” (“Hurt” by Trent Reznor). R.E.M. sings out another, “When your day is long/ and the night, the night is yours alone/ When you’re sure you’ve had enough of this life/ well hang on/ Don’t let yourself go/ because everybody cries/ And everybody hurts sometimes” (“Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.). I remember also one by Good Charlotte, the honest cry of betrayal, “So here we are/ we are alone/ There’s a weight on your mind/ I wanna know/ the truth/ if this is how you feel/ say it to me/ if this was ever real/ I want the truth from you/ Give me the truth/ even if it hurts me” (“The Truth”).
Music and song are another one of the gifts from the Creator. Tunes, combined with lyrics are a powerful healing force in the world. They have a way of stretching, reaching, touching us in those places that help us make sense of life. Again, they combine to reach around our natural defences and assist us in working through the chaos of emotion and anguish we move through. I love music and song. I wonder what your experience with such is?