I remember vividly the surprise on Mrs. G’s face when, as a fifth grader, I told her I had memorized all the lyrics to On Eagle’s Wings, a song new to us in the children’s choir at St. Anthony, after just a half-dozen run-throughs. How could I have learned the equivalent of a 30-line poem so quickly? Easy. It was set to music.
Music. Powerful stuff, if you let yourself succumb to its wily charms. Give someone a passage from an epic poem and instructions to memorize it, he’ll panic; put that poem into dactylic hexameter, and he’ll master it in an hour.
Tonight, as I prep for the quality conference I’ll be chairing on Monday and Tuesday, I have my old-but-trusty Sennheiser cans on, streaming my “top ranked” playlist on Xbox Music. Thing is, I’m using my new tablet PC — an HP Split — that has Beats Audio on board. After a half-hour of experimentation, I found just the right “listening experience” settings in the Beats control panel to reveal a whole new dimension to the music I loved, but heretofore had consumed using earbuds on my phone or Surface Pro.
I’m working. Trying to prep for The Conference From Hell. But I keep getting distracted by my ears:
- The raw, glorious talent of Jared Leto’s voice powering through the unplugged version of Hurricane and his cover of Rihanna’s Stay
- The raucous good time of Shinedown’s Cyanide Sweet Tooth Suicide balanced by the powerful message of What A Shame
- The epic anthem that is Imagine Dragons’ Radioactive
- The elegant simplicity of Britney Spears’s Everytime
- The feral masculinity of Chevelle’s Forfeit
- The classic-rock grit of Creed’s My Own Prison
- The haunting lyrical beauty of Linkin Park’s Iridescent
- The subtle harmonic overlays and deep bass counterpoints of Stone Sour’s Hesitate
A recent study suggested that the music that moves us imprints our psyche, which is why people tend to favor the music of their impressionable youths. Fair enough. But I know quite a few people who either eschew a deep love of music, or use music more as a matter of skinny-jeans social proofing than a source of joy and inspiration.
Get a gin-and-tonic or three in me, left alone with my music and my thoughts, and I’ll cycle between the aggressive, adrenaline-pumping animality of The Red and the tear-jerking melancholy of slow-moving acoustic ballads like 45. Then — to the horror of my feline overlords — I’ll sing along to Islands in the Stream or Fast Movin’ Train.
Thing is, you sometimes just have to let go and let yourself get lost in the moment. The right music, at the right volume, at the right moment, brings catharsis more lasting than a dozen weepy therapy sessions. Music moves us, if we unleash it.