The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
. . . still studying and learning how to live

Latest Rambling Thoughts:
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Music ... Personal Reflections ...

I grew up listening to the radio. My father always had the car radio tuned to the standard New York metro top-20 stations such as WABC and WMCA. Eventually I got my own radio and my own car, and WNBC and WWDJ entered the mix (while WABC kept on playing the hits; it then seemed like it would do so forever). The late 60’s and 70’s dawned, and the FM stations were the place to be for the new “psychodelic” sounds (remember In A Gadda Da Vida?). WABC-FM became WPLJ, while WNEW-FM became the standard rock station of the world. They got me through high school and college, along with 8-track tapes and cassettes.

Given that I started searching for a “spiritual life” at a relatively young age, I always hoped that some positive messages about life, the universe and everything would find their way to the pop airwaves. But mostly it was about intoxication, sexuality, and the expectations and disappointments of young love.

Once in a while, some semi-religious, semi-inspiring notes and lyrics would find their way to the play list, stoking my hopes for a popular wave of spiritual awakening, along with awareness and hope. But even if such a tune was played for more than a week (many, such as “Heaven” by the Young Rascals, faded quickly), they didn’t spark any public discussion, not even any commentary by the DJ’s who would quickly segue to the next tune. That tune might tell a story about dancing, partying, romancing, getting high, evading the police . . . or sometimes about absolutely nothing at all (think about Paul McCartney’s solo tunes — e.g. “Uncle Albert”). There were lots of anti-war protest songs throughout the early 70’s, but they hardly changed anything (plenty of new American wars would follow). And then there were hit songs that sounded “significant” but turned out to be mostly jokes or ego trips . . . like Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” or Peter Gabriel’s “Salsbury Hill”.

You’d think I’d have given up on salvation and enlightenment by radio. But I’m still a sucker for a tune with a positive message, especially if it isn’t overly saccharine and sentimental. I.e., if it starts from the premise that this world is a very nasty place, but we shouldn’t give up cause there’s still a flame burning somewhere . . . yes, I know that I shouldn’t. As back in the 60’s and 70’s, a positive song today ain’t gonna change anything about that very nasty world around us. It will get a few weeks or months of airplay, if lucky, and then you will have to buy the album to hear it (well, thank goodness for You Tube, in terms of making old music available on demand). Three Doors Down have had a couple of songs like that (e.g. “Not My Time”). Probably lots of other bands too.

Nonetheless, I still felt a little spiritual jolt over breakfast this morning when WDHA played Shinedown’s “Unity”. I got to work and immediately googled the lyrics. Hey, not bad . . . then I found the official video, and . . . well, I recommend that you watch it yourself.

At my advanced age, it’s very hard to get emotionally involved; but this video forced an astonished “huh . . . ” from me. Just for a second, I saw life as if I was seeing it for the first time; everything seemed new, everything seemed . . . meaningful. Once again.

Well, that feeling lasted all of 2 minutes, as I started checking my e-mails and my worklist for the day. But it was a nice little “huh”, so give it a try yourself. If you’re a little hard of hearing or just don’t make out song lyrics very well (both apply to me), check out the printed lyrics first. You will appreciate the whole experience all the more. It’s well worth 5 or 6 minutes of your time. And if it does get through to your soul, however briefly . . . then “it’s never too late to stop being afraid . . . put your hands in the air”. Indeed!

P.S. — I can’t help but think that if Jesus were alive today, this is the kind of message that he’d try to send out. But I’d like to think that Jesus would follow it up with other challenging messages, and not mix it up with general teen-age angst and despondency like Shinedown’s “Save Me” and “Cyanide Sweet Tooth Suicide” and “45”. Although . . . who knows.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:50 pm      

  1. Jim, It’s amazing to me that you remember all the songs and even the station call letters. Somehow or other, I missed a lot of that. Not that I missed music; I’ve had a LOT of music in my life–just perhaps a different kind and from other sources.

    I do certainly agree with you that it’s the songs that had some spiritual meaning (you didn’t say it that way, but I’m presuming that’s an accurate interpretation of this blog) that have the most effect on you. I must say it’s very much the same with me. It may not be so much “salvation and enlightnment by radio” as you say but the spiritual effect of the music itself that so influences a person. I know that’s what it is with me.

    I’ve ALWAYS had a difficult time with music heard over the radio–problems with hearing or not. What amazes me is that the popular singers never seem to have gotten the clue that pronouncing the consonents when they sing is what makes the words intelligible to other people when their songs are sung. Somehow or other popular singers almost always forget to (or simply do not) pronounce consonents when they sing. Our language not being a vowel based one (as is the Hawaiian language or so it seems to me anyway), not pronouncing the consonents makes words unintelligble. Yet today I sometimes find myself thinking, what does it matter? When one does check the words, one finds mostly two or three actual lines with the rest being “yeah, yeah, yeah” and “oh, oh, oh”–or variations thereof.

    And music is certainly designed to engage one’s emotions. I remember one time in particular; it was the first time I listened to an opera on a PBS station; they also had a translation of the words to go along with the singing. It moved me to tears. Somehow the combination of words and music was intensely moving. I find myself wondering just why it is popular singers don’t take the time and trouble to make their words intelligible while they are singing; they would have such a greater effect and their music would be even more memorable than some of it is.

    As to Jesus and whether or not he’d use music in his message if he were here today: Good question. I can’t figure out the answer myself. Maybe he would find some way to use music. Who knows, maybe he did in his own time and the music was never passed down. Can’t you just see it: Jesus singing songs that other people sang too. Then a few centuries later some guy (in those days it certainly wasn’t the women because they got booted out by the 2nd century) deciding that the music Jesus sang was too mundane and not worthy of his message and thus threw it out. Yet, I think I’m probably wrong as it has not been found among the many “secret” writings (or Gnostic materials) found in the mid- to late 20th century.

    This is somewhat of a silly response to your blog here, but your words set me to doing my own thinking about music and your P.S. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — May 17, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment:


To blog is human, to read someone's blog, divine
NEED TO WRITE ME? eternalstudent404 (thing above the 2) gmail (thing under the >) com - THE SIDEBAR - ABOUT ME - PHOTOS - RSS FEED - Atom
Church of the Churchless
Clear Mountain Zendo, Montclair
Fr. James S. Behrens, Monastery Photoblog
Of Particular Significance, Dr. Strassler's Physics Blog
My Cousin's 'Third Generation Family'
Weather Willy, NY Metro Area Weather Analysis
Spunkykitty's new Bunny Hopscotch; an indefatigable Aspie artist and now scolar!

Powered by WordPress