October 14, 2013

Birds in the Forest

As I start this journey of being a songwriter, singer, musician, and performer in earnest, I thought it would be fun to keep a blog as well. Blogging is just another way to discipline ones' self in writing, after all, and I could use the discipline. Everyone and their dog seems to have a blog these days. I used to have one many years ago, so I'm no stranger to it. This little on-line journal of my random thoughts may not be valuable to anyone but myself, but I am writing it not only for me, obviously. I have a private journal I keep as well, but it's full of mundane things like the fact that those tacos I had last night didn't agree with me. I hope you, dear reader, find some value, whether inspirational, educational, entertaining in reading the thoughts I choose to make public. So, we begin.

I've been reading a lot of books lately that talk about the importance of defining your values in order to better articulate your goals. If you don't know what you value, how do you know precisely what you want to accomplish in life? There are many flavors of singers, songwriters, performers, and musicians, and knowing my unique purpose and how I fit into the larger scheme of things is crucial to knowing which direction and path to take. And knowing precisely what I value about music is important to know how that vision is going to look.

It's not enough to merely say I love and value music, although of course I do. I love nearly all kinds of music, and even with genres I'm not as familiar with or affectionate toward, I appreciate the skill and craft that goes into it. Music expresses that which can't easily be put into words. Music, like all creations, is first conceived of in the mind. But unlike other manifestations of an idea, physical objects such as a building or painting, music needs no resources, apart from the human body, to manifest itself in the world. Much like dance, spoken word, and the oral tradition of story-telling, all that is required is a human being capable of embodying and giving life to an idea. Music is sound, and this very sound-idea can be immediately expressed. Words in a song are useful to shape ideas, but it is the progression of notes, the vibration of a source at certain frequencies and rhythms in succession, that infuse those words with meaning beyond their spoken form. I don't need to know French or Chinese or Elvish to understand the joy or sorrow the singer is expressing through music.

Music is an artform that is ephemeral as the wind, a time-bound experience that is unique to each listener, yet simultaneously universal. It shapes our other senses and enhances our experiences as we go about our days. Imagine your day filled with only classical music, or only rap music, or only dueling banjos as you drive around, go shopping, work, dine, etc., and you can see how music colors your perception of each moment.

Music isn't necessary to sustain our physical bodies. It is not food or water or light or oxygen. No wars have been fought over this resource, because it is an unlimited resource. It sustains our souls, our spirit, our psyche, whatever you want to call it. Music is humanity's birthrite, as much as story-telling or cave paintings. It connects us to each other. You listen to a song to feel something that someone else has felt, to feel connected. Like all good art, it's about empathy. We laugh and cry and dance together. We hurt together and heal together. If anything, music promotes peace, as peace is born out of understanding.

An anonymous quote, often attributed to Henry David Thoreau or Henry Van Dyke says, "Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best." And this is why I sing, why I perform, and why I write music. I know I'm not the best at any of those things, but I believe I have something to say, a unique voice and viewpoint that no one else can express in exactly the same way. I want to enhance people's lives with these sound-ideas inside me, to get people to feel a deeper connection to each other and the world around them. This is how I think I can best contribute to my fellow human beings in the time I have given to me.

Alas for those that never sing, But die with all their music in them. - Oliver Wendell Holmes' (1809-1894) The Voiceless