Music as Muse

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Euterpe: Giver of Delight

For as long as I can remember, music has played a large part in my life. I remember being in the chorus in the sixth grade and getting one of the coveted solo spots in the big end of the year pageant. I was such a ham. Then all through junior high I took chorus until I had to choose between chorus and foreign language, and I picked French because it was what I needed for my academic diploma. But it didn’t really matter because by that time, I was already well into formal piano lessons. I took lessons for 14 years.

Many people asked me why I didn’t major in music in college. To put it simply, I wasn’t that good, and I knew it. I loved playing the piano, but it didn’t come second nature to me, not like reading and writing. I knew that if I were going to be a classical pianist, then playing should be as natural to me as breathing, and it wasn’t. I tried to explain that to my mother, but she didn’t understand that. My piano teacher did, though. It’s just one of those things. Either you have it, or you don’t, and I knew early that I didn’t. I loved it. I loved the instrument, loved the music, loved learning, especially Chopin, even Bach’s two and three-part inventions, but they were not extensions of myself. I had to fight hard to win them. And so I did not go to Julliard as I once had dreamed of attempting.

However, that never diminished my love of music. When I write, I always have music playing in the background. I create play lists for everything. When I worked, I always had music playing in my office. I once had a job that did not allow music to be played, even for those individuals with private offices. It was like working in a tomb. I did not stay at that job for very long, not just because of the music. That was just a symptom of the larger issues, namely complete control over the employees.

But as usual, I digress . . . To me, music is a reflection of a person’s soul, a soundtrack of your life. My tastes are very eclectic. I love classical music—symphonies, operas, string quartets, piano solos, the cello, all of it. But I also love classic rock ‘n roll, pop, country, soundtracks, reggae, salsa, blues, alternative, even some metal once in a while. Most of the time, I’m mellow, but driving with all of the windows down, I want rock, loud. In the islands, I want reggae and Buffet. Sunday afternoon, I might want an opera. Saturday afternoon, some blues would be good. Right now, I have my mellow mix on because I’m writing.

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Music of the Sphere by Michail Spiridonov

Artists who inspire me tends to be writers themselves: Annie Lennox, Sarah McLachlan, Sting, Van Morrison, Jamie O’Neal, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Springsteen, Melissa Etheridge. Of those, my favorites are probably Lennox, McLachlan and Etheridge, probably because they tend to write in my key, and their songs are so intimate and moving. Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” is one of my all-time favorite songs because it feels as if it were written just for me.

I still love to sing, and I’ll admit to being a karaoke junkie. I used to go to a favorite karaoke bar at least once a week back in the day. I would take my journal, and sit and write, people watch, and wait for my turn to sing. Then when Corey came into my life, I got him hooked on the karaoke habit, and we would go together, but when money is tight, you give up things, and that’s one of them. We haven’t been in over a year. It’s good for grins if you’ve never been. Lets out your inner star, the one that’s been hiding inside.

When I was still living at home, I would put on soundtracks and go around the house and sing at the top of my lungs when I was the only one home. Then when I got my first apartment, I would do the same thing. My poor neighbors. Every Saturday when I cleaned, I would sing and dust. Lemon pledge and “A Little Night Music.” Yes sirree. Pine Sol and “Grease.” Let no one be spared.

So now that I can’t clean every Saturday, the Broadway musicals are left unsung, and since I don’t go on long drives too often, Springsteen doesn’t get rocked out. But I still listen everyday to my tunes, and anytime I hear something new that I think might touch a chord in my creative muse, I download it and add it to my play list. I go on my friends’ MySpace pages and check out their play lists occasionally and steal from them as well, because, well, they get out more. And there is always my oldest son, who loves music as much as I do. I steal from him as well. So from all of these sources, I manage to stay fairly relevant.

But some songs still have a way of moving me to tears. Right now, the one that is wrenching my heart is Annie Lennox’s “Lost.” For a while, it was Brad Paisley’s “Whiskey Lullabye.” Undoubtedly, though, one of the most beautiful songs ever written is David Lanz’s “Cristofori’s Dream.” Bartolomeo Cristofori is generally regarded as the inventor of the piano, and this song is a beautiful homage to the instrument. The soaring chords are reminiscent of a cathedral, and the song itself paints a picture in my mind of many vibrant colors and hues.

That is what the best music does: transports the listener to a different place and time, removes the here and now, if only for three or four minutes, so as to allow that transcendence beyond the mundane, the dripping faucet, the leaf blower, the blare of the television, the neighbor’s mulcher. Instead, all that you hear are the notes of pure beauty and power and timelessness.david-lanz-cristoforis-dream

More later. Peace.

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