I saw the title of this week’s column posed as a question in an online discussion thread this week and, for a moment, it stopped me in my tracks. Seriously, how does one begin to answer that question?
First and foremost, music cultivates a sense of community.
Music has become the DNA for some of the most important relationships in my life. There is an instant commonality that comes when you find people who are deeply moved by great music. It is a breeding ground for respect and friendship with an unspoken subtext, regardless of whether you have the same preferences that I might have. I respect your passion for the music that you curate and enjoy and I will be happy to sample your recommendations if we share that space.
This sense of community is especially significant in light of the isolation many of us have been experiencing on some level for the past few months. I am reminded of the many artists and bands who have lost the ability to play live for local audiences and have, instead, been playing to a camera lens for the various streaming events on social media. Each of you and those who make these broadcasts possible have been keeping the spirit of live music preserved and we should all be grateful for the effort.
Music makes me feel connected to things that are spiritual and reminds me that I am part of a bigger plan. When a song comes on that makes chills rise on the back of my neck or run down my left arm, I am aware there is something bigger and beyond my understanding at work. It’s something that I can’t necessarily comprehend but sincerely appreciate. I know there must be a genuine connection between the artist’s intention and something deep inside of me. A circuit has been completed.
The ability to revisit a classic playlist, discover a new artist and feel the peace that comes from hearing a favorite song — those things are hard to quantify. I am deeply thankful for music as a constant faithful companion.
Music is certainly a type of therapy for me. A certain song may challenge my way of thinking, or comfort me when I am feeling down. I might smile or cry or remember. Perhaps it brings back a clear memory, like the time as a child when we all sat around the campfire in the woods after dark and the man started to play his acoustic guitar while the flames were dancing, and I was lost in it all.
Music builds bridges. Both your ultra-liberal and your deeply conservative friends on social media who argue incessantly about LITERALLY everything else can somehow find common ground in a discussion about the first album from Boston or the tribute to Prince.
Finally, let’s not forget those who introduced us to all of these experiences.
I am thankful for the records that played on the turntable of my parent’s console stereo, the red hymnals in the back of the wooden pews, the booming A.M. radio stations heard on tiny transistor radios where I heard the first songs that really caught my ear, the piano lessons I was allowed to take starting at the age of seven, the band directors who were just trying to make sure we were all in tune, my oldest brother for making me sit down to listen to Abbey Road, and all of the other people who have influenced my musical universe.
That’s just a small part of what music does for me.