A few weeks ago, I turned on the stereo in my van and heard Bob Dylan coming through the speakers. I don’t own any Dylan I’m ashamed to say, the CD belonged to my nephew Christopher. My sister had borrowed my van the day before and as usual her 15 year old son had left behind a mix CD. Four Bob Dylan tunes abruptly followed, by some screamo band; quite a rude awakening for me.
I smiled as I listened to Blowin’ in the Wind, Knockin’ on Heavens Door, and Ballad of a Thin Man. Not so much because they’re incredible songs I haven’t heard in a long time, but because my nephew has “discovered” Bob Dylan on his own.
A week later we were driving together for several hours, he had been playing his screamo/hard core music just a little too long for me so I put in Peter Gabriel’s “So”, he suffered through it well enough. When it was his turn to pick a CD again I begged for something we could both agree on, he brought out the Dylan. We listened and discussed the lyrics and how his voice had changed over the years. Christopher had read a book about him, I had recently seen the documentary by Martin Scorsese. This music isn’t 40 years old to Christopher, its brand new. Every lyric, every note could have been written yesterday. Watching someone get excited about something you’ve taken for granted for years makes you appreciate it as if it were new to you as well. One of the miraculous beauties of music, any art form actually, is it’s ability to transcend time. My nephew and I don’t agree on much music, but Dylan brought us from Underoath and Peter Gabriel, to common ground.
A songwriter friend of mine, when I interrogate him too long about his craft, always responds the same way. “It’s only a song. It’s not important. It’s like a painting. Someone might work on a painting for months, and when they’re done somebody buys it and hangs it in the bathroom or the hall. There are other things that are more important, right now somewhere there are children dying.”
Every time he says this, I want to punch him in the head. He doesn’t like museums so I’m assuming a great painting doesn’t move him as it does me. Besides, it’s an invalid argument anyways. It’s like telling your child to eat everything on his plate because there are children starving in Africa. It’s irrelevant, a non sequitur. Your child could eat everything in site, he’ll simply get fat and children will still be starving in Africa. One thing has nothing to do with the other.
Art, almost every kind is extremely important to me and I seem to find it everywhere. I believe the manifestation of God’s artistic expression is us. The ability to create art is one of the greatest gifts He’s endowed human beings with. We are created in His image, and art is the outward expression of the human soul. Is it sacrilegious of me to say we are continuing what God started with our creation when we use the abilities He gave us to create?
Even the Universe when looked at through mathematics is art. I recently saw an interview with Stephen Hawking. When he mentioned Einsteins Special Theory of Relativity he smiled, “It’s so beautiful,” he said, “it has to be right.” Hawking sees God in the equations of physics, I hear God in music. I do not understand the creative process of writing a song, nor do I understand the physics of the universe. But I will always be awed and inspired by them both, because in them I see the beauty of God’s creativity.
The creative expression that impacts me the most, will always be music. Sometimes I’m stunned by how profoundly music affects me. There are so many songs that have connected my heart and my thoughts with my experiences. But there has also been music in my life that lifted me out of where I was, to somewhere beyond my experience.
The music during the flying bicycle sequence in ET makes me believe in magic, but it’s the final scene of farewell that always makes me cry. First with the sadness of goodbye, then with wonder and awe that I can still believe in a special friendship of an awkward grey alien and a wounded little boy. It’s a wonderfully crafted movie, but it is the music that emotes those feelings. The end of the theme is remarkably emotional. The melody carried by a lone flute, taken over by French horns, echoed by a single trumpet, joined by tympani then the entire orchestra into crescendo. It doesn’t matter how old I am I will always believe in ET.
When I go back and listen to any John Williams theme from a Spielberg film, five notes in and I’m overwhelmed again ,with the same emotions I was full of walking out of the theater. Blown away by the wonderment of Jurassic Park. Knowing the human spirit will always triumph after watching Empire Of The Sun. Being unable to move, filled with too many emotions at the end of Schindler’s List. Go back and listen to the anguished, lamenting cries of Itzhak Pearlman’s violin, and you’ll be amazed at the emotions it may stir in you. Scientist say the sense of smell is the strongest sense we have linked to memory, but I think they’ve forgotten about John Williams.
Two years ago, I stopped at the post office on the way home. A new CD from The Choir was waiting. I didn’t know what to expect, it seems every album they’ve put out in the last 15 years has been a surprise. But even knowing that I was taken aback.
The third song ripped at my heart. Even before Derri’s sweet and empathetic vocal began, some kind of sadness in the drums pulled me into it. I listened to it three times sitting in the driveway.
“She’s Alright” was written about a woman going through a divorce. The beginning of the third chorus Derri’s voice is almost alone, it hit me hard and I found myself weeping.
She’s alright now,
Flying over mountains,
Comin’ through the clouds.
Like an eagle in the wind.
I know she’s gonna make it through,
Cause shes got true blue friends.”
I was going through a divorce, which may have been part of the reason those emotions were so easily brought to the surface. But hearing Derri sing those lyrics, knowing that he had also recently been through a divorce and knowing how much he still cares for her, I think I was crying for him as much as myself. I called him immediately and asked how in the world he was able to sing that song. He said nonchalantly it’s what he does, he’s a professional. I’m still amazed. I don’t listen to it often, I can’t get through it without weeping. Steve and Derri were was once again able to craft a song, that made me feel sorrow, joy, hope and grief all at once. It’s a rare and precious gift.
O HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN
buy it at www.thechoir.net
There is one song, which is probably more special to me than any other, because of my experience with it. You may laugh but it’s “Return to Pooh Corner” by Kenny Loggins. I’ve always thought “Winnie The Pooh” had the greatest wisdom of all cartoon characters.
While pregnant with my first child I went through my hope chest and found my favorite teddy bear, I’ve had it since I was six years old. I took it out, being careful not to losen the button eye that was about to fall off, and placed it on a shelf above the crib. It triggered the memory of that song, so I found the album and the last three months of my pregnancy I played and sang that song to my son every day.
I had a easy pregnancy but it was a difficult birth. Many complications left me weak and barely able to sit up for several days. The night we brought my son home from the hospital he wouldn’t stop crying. He’d been fed, changed and swaddled, but neither his father nor his grandmother could get him to settled down. I managed to sit up and said “Give him to me.” They placed him in my arms and I began to sing to him.
“Christopher Robin and I walked along,
Under branches lit up by the moon.
Posing our questions to Owl and Eeyore
As our days disappeared all too soon.”
I looked into my son’s eyes, he looked up at me, stopped crying and I saw in those eyes the recognition of who I was. He knew me because I was singing our song. It was at that moment that I became a mother.
For the rest of my life when I hear that song, it will trigger the memory of him cradled in my arms, a memory so strong I can almost feel him there still. No matter how old he gets, that’s where he will be, at least in my heart.
“It’s hard to explain how a few precious things
Seem to follow throughout all our lives.
After all’s said and done I was watching my son
Sleeping there with my bear by his side
So I tucked him in, kissed him
And as I was goin’
I swear that old bear, whispered
Boy welcome home.”
RETURN TO POOH CORNER
So, if you are an artist and believe your art is not important, be bolder. If you feel you have nothing new to say, be braver. If you think no one cares about what is in your heart, be more honest. But please know that it is not just a song to me, those are moments of my life you are playing.
There are great songs out there waiting for me to discover them. There is also music that has not yet been written. Whose writer may be at this very moment, experiencing the joy or agony, that will someday when penned and put to a haunting melody, stir something in my soul, bring me to tears, and heal my broken heart.
All of the music mentioned above can be purchased on iTunes