How long can you hold you breath?

I am not doing well. This post will be an example of how music can help express these things going on in your head, or how it can bring you out of a mindset. Really good music can. Ten years ago, my cd player wasn't so much a cd player as an IV drip I hauled everywhere with me. There had to be something else, some meaningful soundtrack to every journey. It would block out the noise of my family, my friends, my life. These days, music is more of an indulgence than a necessity. I suppose my life is much stronger and fuller than when I lived up North in an unhappy situation; nothing needs to be a religion any more as I am enough, for the most part. 

I say for the most part, because today I am not enough. At times like this I hang on to certain noises, the most basic sensory pleasures. My faith in making music is alive because I know that a lot of people value their albums on a personal level. A certain album or song reminds you of a certain time: that bad breakup, that essay you were writing, that little room with the busted sofa and fairy lights where you lost your virginity.

When my mum was pregnant with me, she would sit close to a radio. She had read that Mozart was soothing for the baby.  I still listen to Mozart and other music as a kind of therapy, essential to my alone time when I need to think or regroup. Years ago, when I was obsessed enough, I knew albums as intimately as if they were close friends or lovers. They echoed anger or sadness back to me in a way that no relative or friend was capable of doing for me at that time. In a lonely environment, certain albums were essential to me. You could read this as slightly pathetic I suppose, but my problems aren't the point. The point is that music is often more important than one wants to let on. Why is there an entire culture (and sub-cultures within those cultures) dedicated to the worship of one intonated note played in front of another? Why, if music doesn't affect world politics or social problems, do we think, talk, blog about it daily? It is a spiritual, soothing experience. We are not robots yet. 

My hands shake as I type this. I have had experiences through music that haven't been equalled in my personal relationships. When I was eighteen, I played pieces like The Rite of Spring and Ein Heldenleben in large youth orchestras. There is nothing quite like that feeling of a hundred people playing something beautiful in unison, each person contributing his or her different but equally essential role. In between concerts, we stumbled our sentences, had clumsy romantic encounters, but for a 40 minute piece we were there in the moment, for once our bodies working in sync with our minds. (It's never the same being in audience; even now I get restless watching a performance.) The aftermath of the concert was saturated in the unused adrenaline - a lot of musicians will tell you that they drink to get rid of it as quickly as possible. 

I need music. It bridges the gap between the personal and the collective, expressing something I am untrained to articulate in a stark everyday reality. Maybe, just maybe, you know what I mean.


  1. This is a great post. There's something weirdly immune to words about music, despite the fact that it's so often written about.

    It's also, I think, the mode of expression that's freest of form, and most direct from the brain of the writer to the brain of the listener.

    Somehow even reading what I just typed there makes me feel stupid. It's hard to properly express. But you hit it pretty close.

  2. ..and you picked the perfect music to conclude the post. Grouper are/is super. Oops. Ta for the blogrollage, I shall return the favour.
    And Karl, I promise I'm not comment-following you although it seems that way today ;)

  3. Thanks Karl.

    Adam: Grouper are amazing, just came across them. I need to visit Portland, now.

  4. Yeah music can take you from a shitty A to a more paceful B, when you are in one of those 'this too shall pass' type situations. poems work for me too. but they're sort of musical too. thing is, i haven't a musical bone in my body. i know how to listen but not how to create.

  5. i don't know if it's necessarily an enviable thing, making music. creativity is broader than that anyway, other people exorcise things through writing, or raising kids, or just by being themselves. i only fell into this because my ma paid for violin lessons, yanno? it could have been anything i suppose. but it's turned into a big love affair bcs of my lack in other modes of expression. see also: morrissey.