Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Sound of Music

Music is the answer to the mystery of life. The most profound of all the arts, it expresses the deepest thoughts of life. –Arthur Schopenhauer
Anyone who knows me well knows that music is a HUGE part of my life. In all ways. I am a singer and musician (I play guitar and piano). I have sung in my church choir for years and am currently part of a little band/group. I LOVE to play music with others. It feels wonderful to create something beautiful and meaningful with people of like mind and talent, and share it with others.  It's a high I can't even explain or describe. When I'm singing and playing, time and space do not exist. Only the music.
Sometimes when I sing, I close my eyes. There’s harmony in every breath I take; the drums become my pulse, the melody is the flow of my blood. This is what it means to lose yourself in music, to become a symphony of notes and rests and measures.  -- Jodi Picoult, Sing you Home
I've been singing my whole life. When I was a little girl, I would sing along to the music my parents played on their reel-to-reel tapes and record albums. The Beatles, The Mamas and the Papas, Blood Sweat and Tears, Gladys Knight and the Pips....these were just some of the groups my parents loved.  I can still see my dad putting an album on the turntable and getting this look of bliss on his face when the music started. We'd sing the songs together and dance around the living room.

I  sang in school choirs, acted, sang and danced in musicals, and participated in school talent shows.  I took piano lessons and voice lessons. In high school, my best friend,  Jean, taught me to play the guitar, and we'd play and sing harmonies together.  We knew all the Everly Brothers songs and never tired of singing them.  I started writing my own music, and would perform at an open mic in a local coffee house where I lived in Tacoma, Washington. While in college, I teamed up with my friend Anthony, playing guitar and singing duets like Mocking Bird by James Taylor and Carly Simon. We created our own harmonies to John Denver and Beatles tunes, and we'd perform our songs at the campus Coffee House.

Music has always been as natural as breathing to me. I can't imagine my life without it.

But it's not just making music that moves me so, it's listening to it as well.  I love almost all kinds of music, but prefer rock n' roll and modern folk, or "Indie" folk rock, like Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers.  I admire especially, female vocalists who sing with passion and power like Adele and Brandi Carlile.  Music from the sixties and seventies is my favorite because it's what I grew up with.  I joke that my whole life is like a soundtrack. I can hear a song and know what year it was on the radio, and where I lived and what was going on in my life.  I can almost always tell you what artist does what song.  When I'm listening to music, it's the same as when I'm performing it. I go into another world almost. I am completely absorbed in the song and transported to whatever time and place and feeling it connects me to.

I think music can be an amazing and powerful emotional experience for most people.  It touches something in all of us. There is something intrinsic in our human make-up, something primal that responds to sound and rhythm that is put together in a pleasant and harmonious way.  Now, what one person thinks is pleasant and harmonies might sound like more like noise to another, but the connection is there, to something within. 
When I hear music, I feel no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest of times, and to the latest. -Henry David Thoreau
I don't quite understand it--how music affects the brain and therefore the emotions and memories and certain responses. But I know it's real. Psychologists and researchers in recent years have started to really focus on the power of music to heal.  Music therapy is gaining notoriety and legitimacy as we see real results in patients with emotional problems as well as memory issues.

I recently saw a wonderful movie produced by Mickey Hart (of the Grateful Dead) called The Music Never Stopped. It was based on studies and stories there were chronicled in a book by British neurologist and psychologist, Oliver Sachs. His book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, was also the subject of "Musical Minds", an episode of the PBS series Nova. The movie tells the story of Gabriel, a man who lost his memory due to some kind of trauma, when he was a teenager in the 1960's. Years later, his parents decided to explore music therapy as a way to reach him. The therapist would play old Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan albums, and as soon as the music would start, Gabriel would be instantly transported back in time. He would start talking about what was going on in his life, but he had no idea that he wasn't still a teenager.  It was the music that revived his memory and enabled him to converse as if no time had passed. How powerful!

In Jodi Picoult's latest novel, Sing You Home,  the main character of the story is a music therapist. She works with the elderly as well as with children and teenagers, using singing and drumming to reach them.  Just the idea that an author would portray her character as a music therapist is a reflection of how open we've become to the idea that this is very real, and anyone can relate to it.

I am fascinated by all this. Here is a really interesting VIDEO about Mickey Hart and Oliver Sachs and their efforts to improve lives through music.  It's not too long, I hope you will take a moment to view it.
Real music is not for wealth, not for honors or even for the joys of the mind…but as a path for realization and salvation. –Ali Akbar Khan

How has music touched your life?


  1. What a PHENOMENAL post. I too am greatly affected by music. It has been a major part of my life and who I've become as well. And it has been the central part in two of my children's therapy.

    I love your post and plan to follow you. We have alot in common (I love to bake and cook too! AND I'm a fellow 'She Writes' member.)

    Keep doing what you do very well!


  2. Having conquered a long battle with depression, there were days when listening to music was all I clould do to lift my spirit. It was instantly mood altering lifting me up from places of despair. Its was as if there was healing and medicinal powers in each and every melody. Enjoyed the post.

  3. Awesome post Michael Ann! I remember one time when my boom box was broken down calling my mum in England and saying: I can live without everything but music, help! My dear mum sent me the money for a new boom box. She loved music also and understood the importance of it in my life. My son plays in the Christian punk rock group Hawk Helson but loves many different genres of music. I also had voice lessons for seven years as a child and have sung throughout life. Play on!

  4. Thanks for this exciting post Michael. It made me want to go find some of the music you mentioned and download it. Sounds like we have lots in common in the musical realm. I never had enough technical ability to write it, but I did write some lyrics once. I also took voice lessons in high school and college, sang in church choirs for years (and do now), performed in musicals, and was in a couple of groups - including a Catholic folk guitar group. It is truly a healing force that has gotten me through some of the harder times in my life.

  5. I really enjoyed this post Michael Ann. You touched on a number of things I have been thinking about recently. Music is a great window to the soul. I think we are meant to take in experience, contemplate it, create something in response to it and then share it with as many people as we can. This can come in music, in writing,in photography, in great food. :) I have spent too much of my life denying this creative side, and now that I am letting it in a bit at a time, I am so grateful for its presence. You are lucky to have such a long-running soundtrack! MMF

  6. WOW!
    Music is a huge part of our family!!! My older son, Nathan, is a senior this year -- and plans to study music in college. Needless to say, he has touched us all. I understand music like never before. I APPRECIATE the soul of music now.

    It calms, irritates, inspires, energizes, motivates... all depending on the sound. When I'm in a bad mood, praise and worship music pick me up and help me get my thoughts back on Jesus!

    Even chocolate can't do that!

  7. Thank you all for your wonderful comments! I'm so glad you enjoyed this and that it touched you in some way. Your comments have touched ME.

  8. Great post, and thanks for finding my blog!

    I have no doubt that music saved my life, listening to it, playing guitar, writing songs, all of it.

    I went through about a year of being so depressed that I couldn't get out of bed, and all I would do is listen to Tori Amos. If I didn't have her soothing presence, god only knows what might have happened.

  9. Rock'n Roll saved my life! Brought me out of a suicidal depression. I started an all female band in 1982 and music is still a central part of my life.

  10. I thought you'd be singing or playing the guitar in a vlog at the end of your post :-(

    I'm jealous. You singing and me, not. :-) I loooove music and it's a must when I'm painting. Maybe in a former life, if I had one, I was a musician.

  11. Loving all your comments, thank you! @tosymae...I thought that would be shameless self-promotion. :-) Maybe another time! Besides...this song is MUCH more fun!

  12. Hey girl! What a wonderful blog and post! Thanks so mug for stopping by my blog:-) love yours and looking forward to
    Reading more!

  13. Just wanted to let you know that I gave you an award! Yay!

    Also, how is that decision making coming?

  14. Laura, thank you so much! I am honored! I really admire your blog and writing style, so this means a lot to me. Yippee!!

    Also, I made a decision! I am good with it. No more back and forth so it feels right. Thank you for asking.

  15. Music is an integral part of my life too. My kids both learn an instrument and sing in a choir and we always have music playing at our house. I love music so much I host a Pinning & Singing Linky party every weekend which is dedicated to Pinterest and Songs. Perhaps you could visit my main blog (5 Minutes Just for Me) and join in this weekend? I would love it if you could link up this post!

    Thanks for a great post!

    Thanks so much for following my Christmas blog too. I'm so glad you are as now I have found this fabulous blog and met you!

    Best wishes,

    PS I blogged about how much I love music here:


I always appreciate what you have to say and I love to reply personally. Do you have your Google profile set to show your email so I can do that?

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