15 October 2009

Dancing About Architecture and Other Musings


These are the words that came out of my favorite professor's mouth today while discussing music.

Granted, it was probably meant as a passing comment and it was during a discussion of Latin America's political framework but somehow he got off topic and dropped those words on my ears that stuck with me for the rest of the day. When talking about music, is there any way to actually talk about it?

In his example, he mentioned hearing a great song on the radio. You get the desire to talk about it incessantly with friends later on but is there any way to recollect the feeling you got when you first heard it? We are supposed to implicate that the answer is no, there is no way to explain that sensation to others, it is something that happens inside you and there are no words in the English language - or Spanish - to qualify as specific enough to express such personal feelings.

I love that he used music as an example but his true statement kind of refutes my entire career goal: writing about that same musical sensation that he deemed impossible to express. And unfortunately, I agree. The reason I want to write about music is because when I get that particular feeling about a song, I can't wait to share it with the world. I want everyone to hear the song immediately, understand why I love it so much and secretly I want them to give me accolades for finding it first. I think that's the underlying desire of many music fanatics.

My professor's wonderful insight brings up a lot of questions for me. While music is indeed one of the most passionate, erotic, expressive, thought provoking, and overall personal mediums one can think of, it is also meant to be shared. Of course in most cases, these are strangers making the music to begin with and then spreading it across radio waves for all of us listeners to enjoy and take in as our own. When Johnny Cash sings "I Still Miss Someone" his "someone" is not our "someone" but it sure as hell feels like it on some rough days when you feel like the words are there exclusively for you - but they're not. I have to remind myself sometimes that there are millions of people - both before and after me - who believe these words are for them too, and then there's the original writer and the original "someone".

While discussing a new favorite song, I have a tendency to say "it sounds like me" or "it sounds like my style". Recently I felt like this about Monsters of Folk's "Whole Lotta Losin'". When I first heard it, I went silent. The sound of the song blew my mind and I immediately wanted to post it right here, on this blog, and share it with as many people as possible. I'm not even sure how many people read this blog to begin with but the main reason I want readers is for moments like that. I want someone to comment on that kind of post and say, "wow! I completely know how you feel. You should check out...so and so." Passion, sharing, and music all go hand in hand for me - like three best friends if you will. One just isn't right without the other.

But how does this fit into my professor's statement? I'm not sure. I do believe to some degree, as Elvis Costello stated so bluntly, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture" but I think perhaps in both of these statements, the point is being missed. Yes, it is impossible to convey such a strong emotion as how a piece of art makes you feel to another but sharing the actual piece of art with them and letting them get their own take OR trying to tell them how something made you feel and letting them tell you how they relate based on another piece of art that they love are two options that might help express this a little better. I think that is what music journalism is: giving what you love to someone else and letting them make a judgement for themselves. That giving should hopefully incite some type of reaction and set off a chain wherein they feel compelled to share with you something they love in return.

Maybe that's a very whimsical theory of music journalism but that's my dream. I want to start a passionate conversation.

My darling professor has evoked several other thoughts of music in my head before with casual comments regarding the art that at this point are best left for another post. He is obviously a deep lover of music himself and rarely do I get the treat of hearing someone passionately discuss my favorite thing in the world which is possibly why I took this particular comment to heart. But just another topic to think about: It's extraordinary how much easier it is to pay attention to words stated by someone you adore and admire than a regular person. I wish I could be around more people that get my wheels turning...

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