Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Can Music Save Your Mortal Soul?

Now do you believe in rock and roll, can music save your mortal soul, and can you teach me how to dance real slow? - Don McLean

I was recently at Barnes & Noble (yes, I know, big shocker there) and thanks to my current nonfiction reading interest, I picked up a new title: This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of A Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin. I am just starting it (book review to come in a few weeks), but it is making me reflect on my own musical upbringing. I figured, what a unique and different topic for Certainly Candid! So here I am writing to you today. As I know I have many musically inclined readers out there as well, I present my own background:
A Case Study, or, Can Music Save Your Mortal Soul?
Music has always been a big part of my life. While I played many instruments, piano has always been my first love since I started private lessons at the age of seven. It is a versatile instrument that can shine as a solo or accompany others. In high school, I would spend my study hall time down in the music department. I knew which practice rooms held the pianos that were out of tune, or had sticky keys, or the coveted new replacements for ones that had finally broken down. Nine times out of ten, I could be found in front of the black and white keys with my sheet music.
It did not matter what I played. It often depended on my mood. Sometimes it would be the rigorous classical pieces my piano instructor had assigned. Sometimes it would be jazzy Broadway tunes. If I was in a contemplative mood, it would often be Lorie Line arrangements.

Some days I would work on the intricate fingerings of Mozart's Rondo alla Turca from "Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major." My instructor had suggested the work as one of my senior recital pieces. I tackled the challenge with enthusiasm - focusing on the tempo, the crescendos, and the ultimate memorization of the sheet music. On other days, the choir seniors would spy me in the practice rooms and snag my attention away from my classical work to play fun musical tunes they could sing along to. I never minded - I loved hearing their mezzo, alto, and soprano voices in harmony with the piano as we played tune after tune: "On My Own," "On the Street Where You Live," "Tomorrow," "The Sound of Music." We'd laugh breathlessly when someone skipped a beat or screeched off-key on the high notes. It never mattered though, because we were only looking to have a good time, lost together in the music.

It was no different when I went to college. I would spend endless hours in the music department at my university. I would use the piano in the common room of my dormitories. I'd have conversations with other music lovers who would stop to listen. We knew the power of creating music: it was one that brought us together. Towards the end of my college career, I purchased a guitar and picked up techniques from other guitarists. Having played violin when I was younger, I was excited to get back into playing a string instrument. The guitar has been a fun investment and one that I chose with the intent to just enjoy trying something new.
I don't play as often now, as my everyday activities keep me busy. C'est la vie. Looking back, I still believe that playing music has a freeing quality. It soothes me even on my most stressed and frazzled days. I inherited a beautiful console piano that had belonged to my great-grandmother and enjoy playing it when I have free time.

I know as I read This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of A Human Obsession, I will continue to reflect on my own musical background and how it has impacted my life. Whether you play an instrument or not, I think we can all agree that music affects everyone in different ways.

How does music play a role in your life?

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