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.

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