By way of introduction let me say this: I love music.
It’s really this simple.
Truly, madly and deeply.
I often struggle to express this, precisely because of its simplicity. Walls don’t break and skies don’t fall; the world turns and life keeps on keepin’ on. Yet, through the chaos of any given day there is, still and always, music.
Music just is.
And, in an instant I’m transported to the back seat of my parent’s car at the local Harvey’s hearing Springsteen for the first time and, somehow, I’m also at an 8th grade dance hoping they’ll play the live version of Stairway – because it’s longer and I’ll have a better chance of letting my hand subtly drop to an unsuspecting partner’s rear-end. All the while I’m in the car on the way home from my mother’s funeral weeping openly as “The Gambler” comes on the radio…
It’s all happened before…it’s even happening now and it’s all music.
It defies description and it’s somehow all I want to talk about.
Though, I was told once by a very wise woman, that “talking about music is like dancing about poetry”, and I agree. I agree except that when music hits me I want to shout it from the rooftops, I want to cry out “YAWP” all over the world like (Walt) Whitman, or at least share a knowing glance right when the beat hits that certain way and the build comes back for the final chorus as I thoughtlessly pump my fist over my head in time….I am and have always been moved to seek out anyone who feels the same.
You see, music has always been as much social as it is sonic.
Has been. Note the past tense.
In Douglas Coupland’s 1994 book “Life After God” he suggests that people of my generation (the one after his famous Xers) are lost, rudderless and will be forever in search of meaning because my unfortunate ilk are cursed with being the first ones to grow up in a time and place without the certainty and dominance of religious faith. Left without God we are left without a cultural sense of good and evil, without confidence in fate, and without an authority to rebel against (it should surprise you very little that I purchased this book at a used bookshop on Queen W. with the proceeds of an unemployment insurance cheque). The upshot of Mr. Coupland’s all-too-wise theory notwithstanding, this secularizing of society was at least, mercifully, glacially slow when compared to its digitization. You see, I remember that book because it was recommended to me in the fall of 1995 in the very first email I ever received – less than 18 years ago. In that short time we went from the novelty of invisible mail to Facebook. We went from call waiting to the iPhone!
We’ve gleefully watched the record industry all but burn under the weight of its own unwillingness to adopt the business of new media. We’ve gone from mixed tapes to Napster to torrents. We went from my first CD player to no longer needing any physical media at all to hear music – all in less than 20 years! We went from discovering music on the radio to….to…to what? The radio was the cultural meeting place for music. It was the village well that everyone drew from. Until I was 20 years old, one of the first questions you’d ask a person upon meeting them was, “What do you listen to?” The response would get boiled down to a radio station. It was ubiquitous. Now, I’m not (just) a middle-aged crank railing about the good old days here. I don’t think that everything must be as it always was (and I know that the radio still exists – although does anyone listen to it??).
My point is this, we didn’t replace the radio. We rendered obsolete the very paradigm for musicians to both hone and prove their worth and we never replaced it. Their have been attempts with American Idol, YouTube, Spotify, and the rest of it, but nothing so simple as the endorsement of a song by a voice that you trust to make that endorsement. So, in my twenties I blankly wondered about what life after God would be like. As it turns out, life after God is not such a big deal. The question that I struggle to answer now, as a lover of music, is what will life be like after radio?
So, not yet having the answer I seek, I will talk about music. As much as they let me.
I will exhort, exalt and proclaim.
I will recommend.
I encourage you to do the same.