The Soundtrack of My Life

I listen to music, even when I’m not. I don’t need an iPod, since my brain randomly generates music in my head whenever I’m walking somewhere. It’s usually a snippet of classical music that’s playing, but sometimes it can be a pop song that I’ve heard, or own. Whatever it is, it’s something I’ve listened to enough times that my brain can repeat several seconds of the song note for note in my head.

I listen to music, even when I’m not.  I don’t need an iPod, since my brain randomly generates music in my head wherever I am.  It’s usually a snippet of classical music that’s playing, but sometimes it can be a pop song that I’ve listened to recently.  Whatever it is, it’s something I’ve listened to enough times that my brain can repeat several seconds of it note for note in my head.

If literature is my first love, music runs a close second.  Both can engage the mind and soul: the latter more with music, the former more with literature.  They touch at poetry.  Poetry is just words without music.  Songs are just music set to words.

As I write this, I am listening to Schubert’s sublime Unfinished Symphony, the first movement.  This movement is one that sometimes gets stuck in my head.  Parts of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, as well, which became one of my favorite pieces after hearing it conducted by Toscanini (in 1939 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra).  No one conducts it so well.  Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” ala Furtwangler’s 1942 live recording also plays prominently in my brain, as does this orgasmic moment in Wagner’s Die Walkure (about a minute in, but don’t skip ahead, or you’ll miss the buildup).

In the pop world, there’s the Delgados.  They’ve since split up, but they recorded this haunting song before they did (featured in the opening credits for the Gunslinger Girl anime).  For rock music, there are few better than The Brilliant Green.  “Hello Another Way” is my favorite song from them.  And then you have all the musicians from the 60s.  Bob Dylan.  Simon and Garfunkel.  The Beatles.

I could imagine a world without literature, sad as it would be, but I could not imagine a world without music.  The composer Hector Berlioz once wondered if music was greater than love, for music can give an idea of love, but love cannot give an idea of music.  I would add, too, that love can leave you.  Music never does.

There was a period of time when I wanted to be an opera conductor.  Considering how much some conductors wrote, in addition to their conducting duties, it’s not out of the question for me to be able to be a novelist, poet, playwright, and conductor.  Well, a playwright would be hard.  Operas are hard work, too: much harder than leading a symphony orchestra, where one doesn’t have to worry about costumes, staging, lighting, and everything else in opera that is added to one’s conducting duties, which are considerable on their own.

Like my dreams of becoming a scientist, however, my dreams of conducting were pushed back when I realized how much better others were at music than me, and also because–in the arts–serving one master is difficult enough.

Still, I can listen to and enjoy these recordings, and play them over and over again in my mind.  That’s good enough for me.

7 thoughts on “The Soundtrack of My Life”

  1. I wholeheartedly approve of this post! 😉

    A world without music… I cannot imagine that. My father was talking the other day about how universal music is and how it’s basically the one thing all cultures have in common.

    Ever gotten a poem stuck in your head? That keeps happening to me lately. And as it happens with songs, I’ll only know one line so I just keep repeating it over and over. (Lately it’s been: “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?”)

    LD: Well, do you? 😉 And I thought you would approve.

  2. couldnt agree w you more about music. it is what makes the lowest moments in life lighter & easier to deal with. and the highest moments in life even higher. and all the moments in between, all the more sweeter. i was gonna write about music on my blog as well. the fact that while in india, i’ve been in a bob dylan phase. stuck so hard that i cant listen to much else. i’ve been in phases before. back in 2002 i listened to billie holiday almost exclusively. it was insane. and now it’s dylan. it could be my imagination or it could be true, but his words, whatever they may be, make perfect sense for the moment they are being heard. how is that possible? back in the late 90s, i often used to drive down an old country highway. fields on both sides. beyond a stream, a mountain on one side. few houses here and there. i’d listen to koyaanisqatsi on that road. & the music mimicked every curve of that road. hard to believe, but v true. thanks for sharing your love of music. do you play an instrument? cheers. @vanyc

    LD: Anything else to add? Your comment seems a bit short 😉 And I used to play clarinet, which I hope to play again at some point.

  3. I just tried to imagine how my life would have gone had I not been immersed in music from toddlerhood. And I as hard as I tried…I couldn’t do it.

    I truly wonder about people who say they aren’t all that into any kind of music. It seems like it would be such a joyless way to navigate the world.

    LD: Those people do tend to be joyless.

  4. I sometimes wonder about what I would have the most trouble dealing with, going blind or going deaf (yeah, I’m weird that way). Of course, I’d hate not to be able to watch movies anymore (at least not as I know it now), but no more music pretty much trumps everything else. I would be incredibly miserable. Much like you and Marianne above, I simply cannot imagine my life without music.

    Mike Starr, the original bassist in Alice in Chains, was found dead yesterday, and that, more than anything else, makes me feel like my childhood is slowly disintegrating. One grunge musician at a time.

    1. Saw that about Mike Starr. Also, just so you know you’re not the only weird one here, I’ve also thought about whether it’d be worse to go deaf or blind. One could still feel the music if deaf, I suppose, and we rely so much on our eyes, but I’m kind of glad I don’t have to think about it, bad as my eyesight is. 😉

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