Music [ myoo-zik ]
An art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony and color.
The tones or sounds employed, occurring in single line (melody) or multiple lines (harmony), and sounded or to be sounded by one or more voices or instruments, or both. Musical work or compositions for singing or playing.
The written or printed score of a musical composition.
Such scores collectively.
Any sweet, pleasing or harmonious sounds or sound.
I was thinking about my friend Jerry this morning. I thought about his interest in Bob Marley. Basically, Jerry said that when times are hard, music has a way of settling the nerves. I get that. As a matter of fact, I have a few anthems of my own. I use them when needed.
Music can do so many things. It can evoke memories from the past. Music can change moods or say the things we have no words for. Sometimes a song is more than a song; it’s a catalyst.
Come to think of it, sometimes a song is a definition of our history. This creates a picture in the mind. It’s the sound. No wait, it’s the rhythm. Or maybe it’s the lyrics or perhaps I’m wrong and it is all the above. Maybe it’s more than all the above but either way, music has a way of making sense in ways beyond comparison.
I go back to a video that always helps me. (I will share the link beneath this paragraph.) The video is of someone’s old home movie. The song, however, is performed by Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead. The song itself is an instrumental piece from a movie called Zabriskie Point. The video itself is wholesome and pure and when put together, the two create a beautiful dynamic.
I’ve never been part of an old home movie. At least, not to my knowledge. Besides, home movies changed over the years. Although technology has improved, I don’t think the sentiment is still the same.
There was a morning when I drove over the 59th Street Bridge. Things were tough all over. I was having a tough time with my finances. I was having a hard time with my emotions. I was going through the early stages of divorce. And yes, there were too many factors, which led me towards the unknown. I was anxious to say the least. My hopes were dim and the future was too unclear to call it bleak or anything else.
Man, if ever I wanted to run away, this was one of those times. But where was I running too? No matter where I went, there I was.
I was driving in during the early hours before anyone else was on the road. I remember listening to music and somehow, my body went into auto-pilot. I heard a variation of different songs and while on the bridge, I heard a song by Elliot Smith called Angeles.
I remember the city was in front of me. The suburbs were behind me in my rearview mirror. And there was a comforting yet, a sad realization that sometimes life moves in unexpected ways. There was an idea that there will always be a new chapter and that somehow, I just have to find my groove.
I have to find the rhythm that fits me best because for too long, I was living in a life that was simply off key. I was out of tune and out of synch. Figuratively speaking, I spent too much time trying to make the right music with the wrong bands.
I was thinking about Mom and how she used to tell me that people march to the beat of their own drum. And I say that Mom was right. This is true. I say this must be true.
There are people that are in tune with us and those that play differently. This is not better or worse. No, this only means that we all have our own tune. We all have our own beat. In other words, not all beats fit well together. Not all of our music coincides with or plays well with others. Some people are meant to play solos. Some fit well with others. And me, I was just trying to find my place in the orchestra we call life. And that’s fine.
All this means is that I was playing with people that didn’t fit my sound. This means that when placed together with the right people, there’s harmony.
Take your favorite band for example. All of the members are a perfect ingredient, which has led to their success. There is chemistry here. There is a scientific connection which allows them to play together and as a result, they create music. I swear this is true to life. So, placed together in the right ways, music can do wonderful things.
I know this because although there is a song I heard from many years ago, in fact this was decades ago; I can still hear my Grandmother sing to me in her quietly, raspy voice. She had the softest hands in the world, like a chenille blanket, and she would sing to me.
“I’m gonna sit right down and right myself a letter. And make believe it came from you.”
She sang, “I’m gonna write words oh, so sweet. They’re gonna knock me off my feet.”
I can’t remember the sound of my Grandmother’s voice very well. Only her singing voice. I say that when it comes to music, this proves my point. It’s the sound, the song, the lyrics, the memory and of course, the end results of emotion.
(I had to pause here for a second and breathe because, well, here comes the emotion folks.)
I can say that yes, music can create joy and comfort, even during hard times and sad times. I can say that a song by Doris Day, which was far from a song that I would listen to but yet, still, the connection to the song is still very clear – I can say that these connections are amazing to me. And here’s why –
There was a time when I was very sick. I was a little boy and there was something wrong. I’m not sure what the illness was. I know that I was in the hospital for a while. I know that I couldn’t eat or hold food down. I know that I couldn’t find any comfort. I couldn’t sleep. I know that during a time when I was most uncomfortable, I have a memory of The Old Man coming into my room.
I was always very skinny. The Old Man poked at my ribs because my pajama shirt was riding up on the side of my body. I was so sick. I was crying. Nothing helped me and I couldn’t find comfort. The Old Man sat on my bed softly poked at my rib as if he were tuning a piano.
I stopped crying.
He began to sing to me. “Tea for two and two for tea. Me for you and you for me.”
And somehow, at last, I fell asleep.
I remember the night of December 29, 1989.
The Old Man was restless in the hospital bed. He had several heart attacks in a short time. He was on so many different kinds of medication and yet, he could not find rest.
Finally, after his second to last heart attack, they sedated my Old Man and placed him on a respirator. I don’t remember my last words to my Old Man. I can tell you this without any uncertainty. When The Old Man was uncomfortable, I returned the same favor. I gently poked at The Old Man’s ribs. And to return the favor, I played and sang the same song as he did for me. And just like that, The Old Man fell asleep.
I don’t mind sharing this with you. I don’t mind sharing the tears behind it or the hopefulness that music brings because this is all true. Everything I write to you is true.
Sometimes the truth can be sad but then there’s music. Then there’s songs like the one I mentioned above from the love scene in a movie called Zabriskie Point.
All I know is this; the longer I live, the better I find myself in tune with myself. Perhaps this is because the more I play in this concert we call “Life,” the more I realize that my intentions deserve the right soundtrack. This means since we all march to the beat of our own drum; I have learned to march with those who help me create a better unison. God knows, I’ve played out of tune with “Out of tune” people for most of my life . . .
But not anymore.