Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Music as a language

I play my guitar in the lobby at my gym once a month and it is always an interesting experience. Sometimes people walk right by me and don't seem to notice me. Other times people seem in a rush and don't want to stop to listen. Yesterday though, many people stopped and took a seat on the couch near me and listened. Mothers with small children sat them down and pointed to me to show them, "Music!" Weary people taking a break from endless activity sat down and closed their eyes and listened. One man I know, who cannot speak (due to a stroke) sat down and his eyes beamed brightly as I played. For someone who can't speak, his eyes say so much.

I loved connecting with people and talking about the songs I played or my guitar (a handmade classical locally made) or about how music makes them feel. It all made me wonder. What was it I was doing yesterday that caused the people to come and listen? Was I being more inviting somehow?

I discovered that what I played and how I played set a welcoming mood for others to join me in sharing a musical moment together.  What I did was, when someone came to sit down, I tried to gain as much information as I could about them by observing them. About how old are they? What song could I play that they would know? What memory could I spark? What kind of connection can be made?

There have been times when playing for the public in that kind of setting made me feel a little vulnerable. What do they expect of  me? I often think they want me to play something fast and flashy to impress them. Sadly, I do not really know fast and flashy songs and it's not what I really love to play.

Yesterday I felt like I opened up my heart and let them see the soundtrack of my life. The songs I have collected along the way. Songs from "The Sound of Music," "Mary Poppins,"  Motown, Stevie Wonder, Bach, Pachelbel, my own songs... I stood there and played and watched their responses. When their eyes lit up, I knew I struck a chord and it was a song with a memory attached.

It made me remember again that music is a language. Yes, the "Universal language."  And it does not matter how well we speak it but only that we try to connect.   Though my playing had mistakes and it was not a perfect performance - I was not playing to impress my listeners but to connect with them. "Do you remember this song?" I would ask and see them smile. We'd share our stories about the song.

Music is like any language. Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language and felt intimidated to use it with someone who was fluent in it? Did you notice they did not care that you spoke with mistakes--they only cared that you tried to speak their language. It means a lot. Have you ever tried to sign to a deaf person?  My signing is very limited but they do not notice imperfection, they notice I cared enough to share my vulnerability of my imperfect attempts. Same with music. So what about mistakes. Isn't that part of life? Don't let mistakes hang you up. They are what unites us too!
Good for me to remember this.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Keep the Dream Alive

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr day. A time to remember all the lessons and teachings he left behind.

"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word." - Martin Luther King, Jr

Whenever I hear words from Dr. King's moving, historical speeches, "I have a Dream,"  I am deeply moved. Now more than ever, we need to remember his words and teachings. 

Yesterday I was playing my guitar on a dementia unit at an assisted living center. In honor of MLK day, I played a series of Patriotic songs.  When I finished playing our National Anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner," I looked up and was greatly moved to see an elderly woman standing out of her wheelchair with tears streaming down her cheeks. As I had been reading the music, I did not see her until I was finished playing. When I looked up and saw her tear-streaked face, she smiled a sad smile and saluted me and got back in her chair and left the room.  A few moments later, I heard a door slam down the hall. 

It made me stop and take note of all that is going on in the U.S. now. So much blatant disrespect, violence, chaos and turmoil.  I remember a day as a child having to sing the National Anthem in school while facing the flag and with our right hand over our heart. I did not fully understand why we did this but I am saddened it is gone from our schools now. There is no sense of allegiance to our country right now. At least, not with those I come in contact with. 

May we find out way back to the guiding principles taught by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

 "I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. 
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” - MLK "I have a Dream"

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Silence Made Visible

Happy New Year, everyone! I wish you all much happiness, prosperity, good health and success. 

Recently, I have been asked many times if I listen to music. For some of my old friends, it is a shock to them when I tell them these days I prefer to be in silence. This is because when I was younger, I was a voracious listener to music. Back in the days of vinyl LPs, I would often walk into a record store and buy 5 new albums and go home and listen to all of them. I would buy albums I knew nothing about and listen with such a hunger and curiosity. I loved discovering new artists, sounds, instrumental combinations, lyrical messages. I was also a radio DJ for 20 years at WTJU.net. I loved creating musical tapestries that would engage listeners in hopes of grabbing their attention away from whatever they were doing. I loved getting phone calls from drivers who pulled over to the side of the road to ask me, "What was that song you just played?" 

So now silence is my great friend. Many years ago for a humorous gift to a friend, I gave her a recording of an "Interview with Silence." In this interview I asked things like,:

 "What is your favorite sound?"
"How did the expression, 'Silence is Golden come to be?"
"What has been your greatest challenge being Silence?"
"What's the wildest thing you've ever done since you've been Silence?"

After each question followed a silent pause that really felt as if Silence was answering!  I had forgotten about this interview until I thought about my sister asking me over Christmas holiday, "So, you don't listen to music?"  I tried to explain to her how I love to go home and be in the quiet peace of silence. This being the New Year, I thought it would be a fitting topic to share with all of you. 
The picture above was from the view outside of the window of my train ride of the Hudson river. It's a picture of "Silence made visible. "

How is silence made visible in your lives? I'd love to hear from you. 

Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!  Below are some favorite quotes on silence.

"Silence is the great teacher, and to learn its lessons you must pay attention to it. There is no substitute for the creative inspiration, knowledge, and stability that come from knowing how to contact your core of inner silence."- Deepek Chopra

"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature -- trees, flowers, grass -- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls." - Mother Teresa

"Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolish acts, a balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as after disappointment; that background which the painter may not daub, be he master or bungler, and which, however awkward a figure we may have made in the foreground, remains ever our inviolable asylum, where no indignity can assail, no personality can disturb us."- Henry David Thoreau