Music is a world within itself
With a language we all understand
With an equal opportunity
For all to sing, dance and clap their hands
-“Sir Duke”, Stevie Wonder
Though my auditions for my high school’s jazz choir were never successful, I did learn and grow to love “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder, the choir’s closing number at every concert. My favorite part was a section in the middle of the song where the vocalists would imitate the instruments of the band. Their rendition of that song comes back to me surprisingly often.
Regretfully, I’m not really a music person. Instead, I am fascinated with musical people, the ones who inhale music the way I do books. Music occupies such a prominent role in their lives and they know so much that I don’t, which is always interesting to me. My favorite way to learn about people is to investigate what they love and why.
In the Jane Austen novels I read when I was younger, people used to quote poetry and verse. Those were universals, areas where everyone was able to participate. Our modern universal is music in all of its varieties. Regardless of its form, there are elements of music that stand out to that, that we can all relate to. I’ve written before that there’s often a song playing in my head and I know I’m not the only one.
There are songs I listen to in the dark, loudly, face down, huddled under the blankets for protection.
There are songs I hear when I’m running particular paths with screaming lungs.
There are songs I seek out when I’m feeling empty, groundless, numb, swirling in a void heading nowhere.
There are songs I turn to in moments of unbridled joy, passion, excitement.
There are songs I listen to out of anger, knowing that I’m fighting to reclaim them, to make them mean something other than what they’ve come to mean.
There are songs I don’t listen to anymore, songs I’ve grown out of or away from.
There are songs that make me laugh, songs that make me cry. Songs that push me harder and songs that remind me to slow down.
There are songs that hold me together when nothing else does and songs that tear me apart. Songs that make me realize what I’ve forgotten and remind me where I am.
There are songs I’ve listened to on repeat for days, unwilling to let go of the safety they provide. There are songs I’ve avoided for months at a time, unwilling to engage with the emotions they provoke.
Toward the end high school and continuing into college, a friend and I sent song lyrics back and forth, writing found poetry that reflected what was on our minds. I still have those many pages of lyrics saved as a Word document.
And then there are the songs that people have shared with me. The mixes my music-breathing friends made for birthdays, summer parties, or just because. I’ve listened to some of those mixes so many times that I will forever associate certain songs with “So-and-so’s Summer Mix” or “So-and-so’s 21st Birthday Mix”. One of my favorite songs came from a breakup mix (“So-and-so’s Second Summer Mix 2”).
Just as sharing books is a form of intimacy, I see sharing music as much the same. When you send me a song, you’re giving me a part of you that I might not otherwise be able to see. You’re asking me to accept something that matters to you with an open-mind, knowing that my own preferences might differ, but wanting me to understand what makes you tick.
And I will listen. I will always listen. And then ask why you like it, why you shared it, what stands out to you, how you found it. I want to know why this resonates because I want to engage with you, learn more about you. I want to be part of your life and I want you to know that I’m curious about who and what you are. So I listen, I ask, and I listen again. If your music has lyrics, I often read them. What’s in there for you?
We share with people we care about, people who we hope also care about us. We invite them into our lives and hope they’ll accept. We show them pieces of ourselves and gauge their reactions before stripping ourselves bare, exposing one thing at a time.
And when we find something that connects us, we are overjoyed. We are ecstatic that someone has welcomed that piece of us, that someone is invested in us and our well-being. We call these people our friends, our lovers, our family. We feel at once affirmed, validated, secure in who we are.
We know, in that moment, that we are doing okay. We know that we are okay.
You’ve got the music in you
Don’t let go
You’ve got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don’t give up
You’ve got a reason to live
We only get what we give
-“You Get What You Give” – New Radicals