I don’t know about you, but as summer winds down and the kids start back to school, I get introspective. While pulling charts together for an upcoming gig and tending to a few file-maintenance tasks, my half-present state of mind turned philosophical: “Why do I do this?” That is, why have a chosen to not just play music, but pursue it in the midst of all the accompanying tasks and challenges, big and small? The answer ended up addressing my thoughts on music’s relationship to humanity at large. I shared the resulting writing with a fellow musician who is struggling to find purpose in the midst of her challenges, and she found great value in it … so I thought I’d share it here in hopes you might find it worth a read as well.
First, a personal perspective. For me, creating music has always been an activity that centers me, calms the restlessness and nagging existential questions: “What is the meaning of life?” “Why am I here?” When I’m playing music, the frame of mind and awareness that it puts me in, “the zone,” is the closest I come to living in the Now.
But this doesn’t really explain why I do all of the extra work to put music out into the world for others to hear. Don’t you ever wonder why we artists choose to step out of our creative state (which, for many of us, begins with a reclusive state) to put their work out there to the public?
For me, the purpose of music is to heal. I am driven to compose, record, and perform music to contribute to a healing energy to the planet. Music is a uniting balm to soothe the wounds of separation — from each other, from ourselves, from our God or whatever creative life force we believe in. It is a bridge to span the barriers of language (even misunderstandings among speakers sharing the same native tongue), of geographic and socioeconomic boundaries, of culture. Hans Christian Anderson said, “where words fail, music speaks.” And it is a language we all seem to understand. Those of us who share no other common bond can come together because a certain artist or genre or even a single song speaks to us. These beautiful shared moments restore hope that someday, we really all can get along.
Besides uniting us, music centers us — not just the creators of music, but the listeners, or recreators of it, as well. This is also healing. When listening to music, you are paying attention to time; you are marking time in a way that pleases you (ideally). Maybe listening to music you love helps you find the Now, as it does with me as I’m playing. Maybe you get lost in the music and time stops, or maybe a song from your youth transports you back to another moment entirely; whatever it does for you, it makes the passing of time bearable, doesn’t it? There is an anonymous quote circulating on social media right now: “Art is how we decorate space; music is how we decorate time.” Frank Zappa said something similar: “Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid.” How drab and intolerable life would be without music to “decorate” it!
So in my humble way, I hope to help people experience this when they hear my music: “YES! This is how moving through space and time, at this moment, feels to me. This feels right.” And to find others who agree is to build a positive energy … In this way, music builds a sense of community, of not feeling alone, on a deep level. It puts us all in a better frame of mind, so we can all move through this modern life, with its glittering technological distractions, with less isolation, less, judgment, less fear. It connects us to a form of storytelling that humanity began using thousands of years ago to mark rites of passage with drumming and chanting, a practice that continues to this day.
To be a musicmaker is a gift, and I am honored to be among the ones called to help us all dance through the Now together, in unity. I appreciate the love and support I have received in this endeavor, and know that I will continue to create with this sense of purpose in mind. Thank you for listening, and for reading!