I’m on a recent music kick thats caused me to really think about the kind of stuff I listen to and why I listen to it in the first place. So often I just plug my iPod in and just let it shuffle through whatever happens to be on, without thinking about what it is. Most of the time its just background noise to cover the deafening silence that would otherwise pervade my life. Plus it helps me in not concentrating on the constant ringing in my ears that I won as a result of the many concerts I’ve attended.
I’ve been on a acoustic/folk/downbeat kind of musical journey as of late. Jack Johnson, Bright Eyes, Jon Foreman, that kind of stuff. Slower, acoustic guitar, mellow kinds of music. I’m not really sure why. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still up for heading down to the Agora and rocking out to some As I Lay Dying or Norma Jean. I just find myself captivated by the less processed, more organic side of the musical spectrum.
It seems that the style of music you listen to is (to some extent) based on the time of life you find yourself in. I was told once that once I went off to college I’d fall in love with country music. (Thank God this hasn’t happened yet). But recalling my troubled high school years, I would scan the radio for the hardest thing I could find, full of blazing guitars and triple-pedal drum beats (is that even possible?). And how often are teenagers stereotyped as listening to that style of music? The whole scene – the hardcore, troubled rock, the styles that go along with it – why is it that this is most often typified with the adolescent years? Now, before I go and generalize myself into a universal box, I’ll say that I love some hardcore blasting through the speakers. And I don’t think I’m that troubled (you can beg to differ if you want :-P). But maybe, with all the changes going on, that style of music reflects that kind of craziness? Maybe in the midst of so many changes, the dissonant beauty of thrashing guitars is the audible expression of the inward conflicts raging inside? I know that I find myself playing some As I Lay Dying or underoath whenever I’m mad. Its a release. Its listen to that, or hit something. I choose the less violent option.
But I guess my recent fixation with the deconstructed, acoustic side of music reflects something in my own life. Life right now is not so much about conflict as it is about finding meaning. Yes, changes are taking place in my life that reflect a lot of conflict. But these changes are not about dealing with authority or raging hormones. These changes are about finding purpose and fulfillment in life – figuring out which career path to take, looking for someone to make that journey meaningful, finding peace with God and the world.
And with music, too often the meaning of the song gets lost behind the guitars and drums and synthesizers. With the lighter side of the spectrum, the message conveyed is clearer, more distinct. The words come through. While heavier bands may convey the emotion through the dissonance of the guitars and screaming vocals, the other side conveys the emotion through the words themselves, through the vocal inflections and simple rhythms of the instruments. I’ve found that an orchestra arrangement can move me more than an Emery or underoath song.
Part of my thought on this was probably inspired by a movie I saw this weekend. If you’ve ever seen the movie Once you probably understand what I’m getting at. The movie just won an Oscar for the song “Falling Slowly.” The movie came out of nowhere to be a huge critical success. It was made in two weeks and on a $100,000 budget in Ireland, made it to the Sundance Film Festival where it got a lot of attention. The story is about two musicians – one a street guitarist and singer, and another a Czech pianist – who combine their musical talents to complete the songs of the guitarist and, in the process, they find healing and reconciliation in their relationships and lives. The movie was so great cuz the entire time I was expecting there to be some dramatic turn, like how in every romance there’s a break up or an accident or something dramatic like that and in the end they end up happily ever after. But it never happened like your typical Hollywood romance. And thats one of the reasons its so good. It doesn’t end how you want it to, but it ends how you know it should. And the music throughout the movie is so good that immediately after I watched it I went out and bought the soundtrack. The music drives the movie, it is considered a “musical.” But the music doesn’t stand out like your typical musical. It fits, just like its a natural part of life. Which it should be. The music is what brings them together, what brings healing and life back to their lives. If you get a chance, see this movie.
All that to say, thats my thought on music and life as of late. Here’s what I’m listening to as of late and what you should look into:
Jon Foreman – Fall and Winter
Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake
Damien Rice – O and 9
Jack Johnson – In Between Dreams
“Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time” -Falling Slowly, Once Soundtrack