Learning to see music’s role in the world through an “endless pilgrimage of the heart”
When we see, again and again, music awaken a loved one deep in dementia or Alzheimer’s, it is proof of how important is. Whether it’s a commercial jingle or a favorite song, our mind made connections that are so deep and important for us that they remain even in our darkest times, waiting to be triggered to give us the joy we found in those notes and words. I believe in music.
George Harrison talked about music being the love that musicians give to the world. and if "the love you make is equal to the love take" than you are giving a lot of love. And it is a giving of yourself, from your soul. So YES, music and art is so important!!! I turn to it over and over again.
Your blog is also great. The musings we all grapple with in trying to find our way through life. What does it all mean? if anything. What is the point of 'me', or the collective. But we are a social species and need one another, need the trees, water, plants, air; need every bit of what the earth has and need to give the gifts we have. You are a gift and your talent and intelligence are part of that gift. Thanks for sharing it.
Oh, Spencer, this post made my head want to explode - in the best way! I am not a musician, but lately I have been thinking about how music has absolutely saved my life so many times. This thinking actually started when I listened to your father's last Starship Casual offering and he mentioned his 19-year sobriety anniversary. I should probably have written this in his comments section, but I will share it here: I am so grateful that he is here to announce that and I am so grateful for all of the music and writing that he has put out into the world during the course of those 19 years. There are many, many musicians, artists, and writers whose offerings have kept me here on this planet during some really dark times - when I did not want to be here at all; your father's music is very high on that list for me. And while I don't know your dad personally - only through his art - it seems clear to me that he is also a person whose life has been saved by other musicians, artists, and writers. That - for me - is god...or higher power, great spirit, life force - whatever you want to call that inspiration to stay alive.
A while back, I went to see Tommy Stinson play an acoustic show here in North Carolina. There was some back and forth as to if he would play or not because of a COVID situation at the venue and the intimate nature of the show. Luckily, he did decide to play and it was fantastic. I went up to him after the show and thanked him for deciding to play. He hugged me and I felt inspired to tell him how, when I was a kid, discovering The Replacements saved my life. I did not go into ugly details, but I grew up in a very dysfunctional home and when I heard Sorry Ma Forgot To Take Out The Trash, it was a massively powerful revelation for me. I felt like these guys got it; more importantly, they got me. I became an absolute Replacements fanatic. Anyway, Tommy got kind of 'aw shucks'-y about it, but I am glad I said it because it's my truth. So, to answer your questions: music is really good, people do need it and you are indeed helping too! Thanks, Spencer!!
Someone asked me once if I'd rather be deaf or blind. I blurted out "Blind!" as the thought of never hearing music again panicked me to the core.
it’s so interesting to read your thoughtful analysis, as it coincides with my having journeyed through a great Lenten fast wherein I have by and large given up the act of listening to secular music. it’s been a practice rooted in focusing on capital-G God more so than usual while attempting to gain a bit of control over my earthly body. it’s been a positive experience and it’s actually kind of alarming how comfortable I’ve become not kicking on iTunes (yes, I still maintain an old machine which has yet to give up that old ghost, I’m old and an INCREDIBLE app called Moody never made the leap to the newer macOS music platform), but I have had days where I NEEDED to round out my edges with church music, be it Coptic chanting, Lutheran piano, or Black gospel. I’m looking forward to loosening up post Easter and enjoying music again, but this has been an eye (ear?) opening experience.
This is too big a concept for me to really delve into in a meaningful way from my phone on the interstate (not driving), but I feel like music, theater, movies, fandoms, etc, feed a human need for a collective experience that used to be much more widely met by religion. In short: Yes, what you said. It serves an essential purpose.
I appreciate this content! I teach in a place where many of my students want to "prove" their faith is "correct," and I remind them that the essence of having faith in something is believing without *knowing.* If what we do leaves our world a better place than it was before--or at the very least does no harm--we're all right. We just finished reading Fahrenheit 451, and I'll drop a quote we spent a lot of time considering:
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.
It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
Lovely post. I’ve long believed that music, art, literature, etc. are the best evidence miracles exist. But I’ll take it one step further by adding that this applies as much to the creatives as to those who appreciate the creations. Seattle just hosted AWP (the “Woodstock for writers,” it’s said), and talk turned to ChatGPT. How will AI affect an industry that already suffers so many problems? For me, using a bot to write my entire novel misses the point of why I write in the first place. The whole (messy, challenging, frustrating) process brings me joy, and miracles happen in the revisions. xoxo
Did anyone else catch the "Smiter of Fuck-Ups" show at Metro circa 1997?
Anything done to facilitate joy in your heart or the hearts of others is profoundly important.
And this explains how Nels makes me listen to music not in my usual playlist...
I love that section about an endless pilgrimage of the heart. A journey of discovery through unfamiliar terrain as opposed to dying on a hill. That’s true faith, is putting faith to the test.
Excellent, thought-provoking post. Creative acts and community are ESSENTIAL. I'm with you on the lower-case-god conversation, too, in that it's a feeling not a Knowing (which is hard for our intellectual brains to accept). Thank you for sharing these reflections on a beautiful Sunday morning.
Great thoughts. Whenever in need of firing myself up about music, I watch this Van Dyke Parks clip -- "The arts are not a decoration." https://youtu.be/BR65QnT76xg?t=503
...last night: "...music is my savior..."
Yes, yes, yes, yes. Thank you 💗