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THE MYSTERIOUS POWER OF MUSIC…

Obviously, music means a great deal to me. It always has. It can get me through the “rough patches” It can add to the happiness of certain moments. It can etch its way into my soul to reflect a time or a feeling. It can comfort and soothe me. Music can allow my mind to take flight. Certain musical artists are able to touch me in places that are impossible to map. …those corners in the soul that we stumble upon from time to time, but may not always be able to find at will.

Artists who have found those places in me are fairly predictable if you’ve read more than a few postings in my blog or if you know me.

Barbra Streisand (duh! …the sound of her voice is like a warm hug for me), Tori Amos, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Stevie Nicks, Rickie Lee Jones, Billie Holiday, Bjork, Ella, Led Zeppelin, Mary J. Blige, The Who, John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, Nina, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Rosemary Clooney, Emmylou Harris, Cocteau Twins, Erykah Badu, Carly Simon, Harold Budd and Mitsuko Uchida continue to weave their way into ever expanding places within my psyche. And, I am all the better for it. There are others, but these are the ones that spring to my mind as I write this.

Other artists have had an impact on who I am, but no longer seem to connect with me the way they did in the past. At one time in my life I found great strength from the work of the Patti Smith Group. However, when I listen to she and her band now I feel as if I am on the verge of “re-visiting” times I would rather forget. Pink Floyd used to be a powerful muse during my late high school and college years, but as I grew away from the joys of pot their music failed to reach me. And, too, their work brings me back to a place that was filled with pain and confusion. But, even this speaks of the power of music.

Not that the other artists I’ve listed don’t make me think of things sad or horrible. But somehow the touch of their music is more tender and shows me how far I’ve come vs. how much farther I have to go.

There are a few new artists who seem to be finding a way into my framework. Lizz Wright, Bright Eyes, Malia, Patty Griffin, Karen Ann and Damien Rice.

These thoughts about music came to me after something I read which I wish I had written. The words so perfectly capture my feelings about the power of an artist’s music so beautifully. Of Billie Holiday and the first time she heard a recording of her voice, Julia Blackburn (a briliant writer) writes:

“…Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, a woman’s voice arrived. She flew in there among them [the muscians] like a bird and I realised that all the instruments had been waiting to welcome her. To my surprise she didn’t seem to care about the beat which they wove around her, and she kept pulling at it and stretching it until I thought she had lost it entirely. But just when it seemed too late, she was back again. …She sounded so close and familiar. It was as if she was looking straight at me. …she was telling me that things change, life moves on, laughter is followed by tears, and tears are followed by laughter. After you have been knocked to the floor, you rise up and get on your feet again. …even the saddest songe were full of courage. It was as if just the fact of singing was in itself a triumph and a way of dealing with despair. …she was strong and I was made strong by listening to her.”

My Grandmother used to tell me all sorts of things that I never quite understood. One of her ideas was that she could not understand how a person could deny the presence of a Creator when he or she looked at a tree. I never got that — until I realized that I was hearing the presence of a power beyond myself and — even beyond that of the artist — in music. I sometimes think that the closest I can get to the power of creation is in the music of an inspired artist.

Or, is it simply what we bring to what we hear?

Logic tugs me toward that basic rule that art is really what we bring to it. However, my heart tells me that it is so much deeper than that. How can so many be so “saved” by the sounds that came from the voices of artists like Billie Holiday or Janis Joplin? How can so many of us be touched to the core by the lyrics of someone like a Leonard Cohen or a Joni Mitchell. And, how is that someone like a Mitsuko Uchida or a Yo Yo Ma can give such ancient music flight into our souls? It doesn’t seem that random or isolated to me.

…there is magic in the music. And, salvation.

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August 11, 2005. Uncategorized.

5 Comments

  1. Eeken Kusje replied:

    Barbra Streisand the sound of her voice is beautiful …ME GUSTÓ TU BLOG MATT,ES SENCIBLE.
    SALUDOS DESDE :CHILE

  2. Miss Marisol replied:

    This post has been removed by the author.

  3. Miss Marisol replied:

    I think it’s possible that both truths exists. There is the beauty of truth that comes from what we bring to certain forms of art. This is, in itself, it’s own miracle.

    But, then, there are certain perfect storms of universal energy, certain absolutes that are closer to truth than most people will ever experience. That is the experience of hearing Billie Holiday for the first time, or standing in front of a Monet and being unashamed of its sentimental power.

    I used to bartend at a jazz bar in Chicago years ago. And there, I used to stare at a poster of Billie from her last performance. She is hunched over her cocktail and standing near an old microphone. I’d listen to her sing, “Sophisticated Lady” and felt closer to her than anyone in the world. It’s an amazing feeling.

    Thank you for today’s inspiration, darling. kisses . . .

  4. Karyn replied:

    You’re right on the money I think with the idea that it is largely what we bring to the listening experience. As for how so many people can be inspired by a song or lyrics or a performer, I think however alone we feel, a lot of people are going through similar crap in troubled times and music is bound to speak to us on a cellular level.

    I believe, however woo woo this sounds, that music as vibration slash energy connects to us spiritually.

    Well that is another story and I could go on a while about it but I won’t. Love you.

    k

  5. Underling replied:

    I”m with Karyn on this one. I think there is such a deep connection between music and our innate spiritual side that certain songs can’t help but resonate for all of us.

    I was just posting on a forum last night that one of the reason I prefer singer/songwriter music is for its simple spiritual truth. It’s the one voice singing a song that it wrote. Songs from artists who have created the music just grab me deep down.

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