What’s playing in your mind?

March 1, 2021

A few days ago, Pastor Freed wrote this in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”  (Aldous Huxley)  I know the thought that Huxley is expressing, but the passing thought that comes to my mind is how Charlie Chaplin was able to use music in his silent movies…a talent for putting silence and music together. 

The use of music to set a mood or pace in a movie is still used today. We seldom notice it because we have grown to expect it, rather than silence. In fact, total silence can be disturbing, just as total darkness is frightening and disturbing. We are used to being immersed in sounds. Many people have music constantly playing around them, either for real or imagined. I have little songs playing out in my head as I walk my dog. The imagined music fills a void in the mind and keeps it amused and active.

I will admit to not being a music person, someone who has to have songs playing around them in the background as they drive or just sit there. I went through a phase in life where music was more important to me and I have an extensive collection of music in various, now-outdated recording formats, most of which is now to old to even make it onto the Classic Rock stations.

Now instead of donning ear pods to listen, I can just turn my mind loose on the music that is stored there. Often the little songs that we use for our gospel acclimation in our church service will pop to mind. They are catchy little tunes and easy to repeat over and over in one’s mind.

While we listen to the words (if there are words) in the songs that we hear (real or imagined), I suspect that it is really the melody that catches the attention of the mind. Music and math are inextricably linked in the mind. Our brains are wired for the mathematical order that the melody in music brings with it. Whether aware of it or not, the melody writers are creating mathematical sequences of notes or melodies that appeal to our brains. Great classical music of operas and symphonies are mathematical tours-de-force. The Norwegian composer Marcus Paus has argued: Melody is to music what a scent is to the senses: it jogs our memory. It gives face to form, and identity and character to the process and proceedings.”

There has also been a small, but dedicated, movement for some time focused upon non-melodic music, which is now called experimental music. It is hard to imagine music from that genre getting stuck in the mind and playing away in the background as I walk the dog.

Perhaps what Huxley was trying to say is that music brings with it an orderliness which helps the mind express the inexpressible. Music can certainly calm the mind by drowning out the noise of the world and bringing order out of chaos. One can go from neurons randomly firing off in all directions, within the confused or frightened mind, to the order and smoothness found in a good melody by just conjuring up a good tune. Try thinking of your favorite song the next time that you are anxious or confused about life. Let the melody play out in your mind and seek comfort in orderliness of it.

What music is playing in your mind?

Does the music you hear make you want to dance?

May 4, 2016

Noel Coward wrote, “Blithe Spirit…that kind of person who is happy and carefree and dances to music no one else hears.” – as seen recently on the Jack’s Winning Words blog. That little saying by Coward wasn’t even the quote of the day, which was – “Work is more fun than fun.”  (Noel Coward)

Work can be fun, especially if you are dancing to the music inside. More generally, life can be fun, if you constantly hear the music that makes you want to dance. I knew a man once who used to say, “On the outside I may look calm and composed; but, inside there’s a listening toi music.pngparty goin’ on.” Obviously he was dancing to the music inside.

I suppose that the references to music and dancing are metaphors for your outlook on life and how you live your life; but I suspect that the person who hears what no one else hears is a person who has accepted the good news of Jesus in his life and that has freed his spirit to be happy and carefree. After all, once you have accepted Him in your life, what is there to worry about?

So, each morning, pause to have a little prayer or read a little from the Bible and strike up the band. You’ll be hearing the music all day long and dancing through your day.

Do you hear the music?

We all understand the lyrics sometime…

June 2, 2015

“In good times, we enjoy the music.  In hard times, we understand the lyrics.”  (Unknown), from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

This is one of those “ain’t that the truth” sayings. Much of the music that we hear and enjoy for the beat or sound listening to musiccontains lyrics that are about hard times – a relationship gone bad, the loss of a loved one or just being down on one’s luck. That seems to be especially true of Country music. It seems that all of the cowboys, farmers, truck drivers, waitresses, wives and girlfriends who’ve been cheated on,  and others referred to in those Country songs had hardscrabble lives (or so they want you to believe).  And who doesn’t relate the religious songs “Rock of Ages” or “Amazing Grace” with some funerals that we’ve attended?

Sometimes I can’t tell what the words are to a song, especially some of the newer songs. If I really want to know I can always Google them and find the lyrics on line somewhere. I vividly remember how apropos the lyrics of Paul McCartney’s song “Yesterday” were to my first college sweetheart breakup. That song captured perfectly the feeling of loss brought on by that event. A little later, in a college bar, with “Hang on man dancingSloopy” blasting in the background, I met the women who was to be my wife for 50 years. I didn’t care about the lyrics, it was just a great song that made everybody feel good (especially those who had been in the bar for a while).

Since then there have been a few songs that just seemed to fit the occasion or moment for us, as we had a life together – mostly they’ve been happy songs, songs about love and devotion; but, there have been a few “Rock of Ages” moments and more than a few “Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This” times. Through it all there were songs that reinforced the reasons for staying together and fighting our way through whatever adversity we faced. Sometimes those just played in the background like elevator music and sometimes they reached a crescendo at just the right time to help. Now, as our lives reach a mellow age, songs like John Legend’s “All of Me” listening toi musichave greater meaning.

What songs have had meaning in your life? Are there sad songs and happy songs that go along with events and milestones for you? Do you know and understand the words to those songs? How do these songs move you when you think about them. Which ones make you smile? Maybe those are th ones to keep in mind. It’s OK to just be moved by the beat, but someday, when your life starts to slow down a bit, you’ll want to understand the lyrics too. The good news is that, by then, you’ll be mature enough to actually do that.

Have a great day and rest of your week and tune into the lyrics on a few songs.

The music in our lives…

April 7, 2014

I won’t start another numbered series. I probably won’t write more than once about this topic, especially since tastes in music can vary so widely. I must also admit that I’m not a big music listener anymore. I guess I just drifted away from the need to feel or express my emotions through the songs of others. However, I can still relate to that as I used to when it was a more important part of my life.

Music stanzaI grew up during the birth of rock and roll and still recall how scandalous some of the early rock songs were considered. Most of the early rock songs seemed to focus on rebellion or unrequited love (many with sexual undertones).  Just the notion of rocking and rolling was initially met with disdain (do you remember Kevin Bacon’s movie Footloose?); but early rockers like Bill Haley and Bo Didley, Fats Domino, Little Richard and Gene Vincent kept rockin’ on and a new music genre was born out of the fusion of R&B, Jazz and folk music. A rockabilly element was added by Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. We had greats like Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis and Blue Suede Shoes by Carl Perkins and Peggy Sue by Buddy electric baseHolly and the Crickets.

Then, along came Do-Wop, with the multipart harmonies that gave us such greats as The Great Pretender by the Platters and Yakety Yak by the Coasters. We also had Do-Wop groups like the Del Vikings , Dion and the Belmonts and the Mystics (with Paul Simon as lead singer on their hit “All Through the Night”). I have albums (mostly on cassette tapes) from most of the big acts from that era)

The early 60’s were considered to be the time when rock was in decline, but it was also a time of diversity for the genre as more and more girl groups started hitting the charts. Several new sub-genres also grew during this time, including surfer music, garage band music and specialty dance music, such as “The Twist” by Chubby Checker. Rebellion and love were still the dominant themes of the music. Who can forget the 1964 hit “The Leader of the Pack” by the Shangiri-Las. I’ve got a lot of that music on cassettes, too, and a few LPs.

Then there was the British invasion, with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones leading the way. The Beatles were the cute bubble gum band of the era initially, with songs like “I want to hold your Hand”; while the Stones were the bad boys.   I remember that the Rolling Stones hit “Let’s spend the night together” was banned on some radio station for a while.  I have LPs from that era by the Beatles, the Stones, the Mamas and Papas and other groups. I mostly have LPs from this era, although like many I went back and bought the cassettes and later the CDs for many.

The counterculture movement took hold in the late 60’s with great opposition to the war in Viet Nam and much experimenting with drugs in the late 60’s and 70’s and the music of those times followed those trends. Message songs about peace and not war were popular and messengers metal rockerlike Bob Dylan grew up musically in that culture. The Heavy Metal genre was born and very pronounced drum and bass beats took hold. I still have the original 23 minute LP version of In-A-Godda-Da-Vida by the Iron Butterfly. Groups like King Crimson and Black Sabbath provided the ubiquitous beat that some many listened to while stoned. I recall hearing that incessant beat while sitting in my hootch in Viet Nam.

The 70’s saw the introduction of disco music, which was great to dance to and relatively harmless. Disco divas such as Donna Summers and Anita Ward were big in the disco club music genre. Late in the 70’s a new  wave style developed with bands like Blondie introducing electronic and synthesized music to rock hit like “Heart of Glass”. Soft rock also gained in popularity with groups like the Carpenters, the Jackson Five and the Osmonds cranking out hits. Hard rock was still alive and well on the big show arena circuit with groups like Blood Sweat and Tears, Foreigner, Journey and Styx out on the road. The rise of what is called Country Rock or Southern Rock happened in the mid to late 70’s with groups like the Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers Band, and The Marshall Tucker Band. The Eagles “Hotel California” album was probably the best album of that era. Individual performers also became very popular again in the 70’s with Billy Joel, Jim Croce, John Denver and Bruce Springsteen leading the men and Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, Dionne Warwick, Donna Summer, Barbra Streisand, Rita Coolidge, and Helen Reddy holding forth on the female side. For me this was my age of working hard and raising a family. My involvement with musicrocker had waned but I was still buying music – cassette tapes back then. I did like the fluffy stuff that Abba was putting out and

The 80’s are probably what most people relate to the most, with stars like Michael Jackson and Madonna emerging. Jackson recorded his Thriller album ( one of the best-selling albums of all time) and Madonna had True Blue and Like a Virgin (which was also the best-selling album for a female artist). The late 80’s also saw the rise of so-called teen-pop, with groups like New Kids on the Block and other music aimed at the younger audience. Prince also arrived on the music scene and his Purple Rain album reviled the success of Michael Jackson. All was not bubble gum and pop however, with heavy metal bands like Van Halen, Queen, Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith and Alice Cooper out on the arena circuit and doing well. Other genres were developing larger followings such as hip hop and punk rock. I had progressed to music on CDCD’s and still bought some music although my tastes had mellowed out quite a bit, so it was probably stuff by Springsteen or Tina Turner or maybe Whitney Houston. I also started buying the CDs of t groups called the Eurhythmics and later those of Anne Lennox.

In the 90’s saw lots of splintering into sub-genres with the main rock categories being Alternative Rock and Metal trends, Grunge, Indie Rock, Ska, Punk Rock, Nu Metal, Heavy Metal, Pop, Contemporary R&B, Neo Soul and Hip Hop (which had morphed mainly into rap). I had left most music behind by then, so my experiences are limited. Those same categories seem to have progressed forward in to the 2000’s, perhaps with the reemergence of the teen pop performers added.  Country music also started showing up more as the cross-over style of country emerged.

So for me personally lots of my experience with music was some time ago. I do recall quitter vividly how powerful a song can be as either a reflection of the pain of a lost love or finding the strength to go on after a breakup. The Paul McCartney song Yesterday was especially meaningful for me during a breakup back in my college days, before I met my wife. Music could also make you feel good.  I also loved Monday, Monday by the Mamas and Papas back then. I have the Viet Nam era records by groups like King Crimson, Black Sabbath and Iron Butterfly, but I don’t revisit them.

I have a complete boxed set of the Simon and Garfunkel recordings and most of what Paul Simon did as a solo artist. I also have the complete works of the Beatles, though not of individual members after the breakup. I have disco stuff by the Bee Gees but not the heavy metal stuff of the era. I have some stuff by the modern day divas of rock – Carey, Estaban, Dion, the Bangles and Blondie to go with my favorite from an earlier era – Janice Joplin.  I also have some pretty obscure stuff, like several albums by Laura Nyro (Look that one up) and eclectic little albums by Melanie, Enya and Nora Jones to go along with my albums by Anne Lennox. I croonerhave most of the albums that Simply Red has done and a nice collection of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett stuff. Somewhere in the early 90’s I got into Garth Brooks for a while, so I have his albums on CDs, too. I have no modern rock of any of the various genres or any rap.

I’m not sure when I wandered away from music, but it doesn’t have much of a roll in my life anymore. Sure I have music on my iPhone and playlists all set up and I have ear buds in every coat; but it’s that I don’t use them very often.  I can’t even say what I would take with me to a dessert island if I was to be stranded there. Perhaps I would just relax and listen to the sea.

Music can just be something in the background like noise or it can move us greatly. What songs have had great meaning in your life? What events do you relate to a particular song? What song can bring a tear to your eyes? Try this country song by George Jones, considered by many to be the saddest song ever written. If that didn’t work, then here’s a site that advertises the 28 saddest songs ever. If you need a good cry, go there.  There are also songs that make you feelisland good. Here’s one site’s top ten list for feel good songs.

What music would you take with you to that dessert island?