Friday, October 4, 2013

On Being Affected by Music

Today I was working and listening to my iPod, when the random shuffle picked some of the saddest/most beautiful songs I know.  As I sat there with tears in my eyes, I was struck at how different everyone is when it comes to music.  Many of my friends and loved ones are like me.  A great song with a poignant lyric and soaring melody are enough to bring out the emotions and the goose bumps.  Then again, I have a lot of friends who enjoy music, but have no specific emotional attachment to what they hear.  For them, music is something for the background; something to drown out the road noise in the car. 
As stated, I can get any emotion to the surface with the right song.  Feeling mad and need to vent it? Ani or Henry Rollins will do quite nicely. Sad and want some catharsis? Show tunes, Girlyman, some more Ani, please.  R.E.M, the B-52's, heck, most of the early 90's alternative stuff always puts me in a good mood. 
With show tunes, there's a story behind the song that I relate to.  Funny or sad, I enjoy the context of the song, and that helps prime the emotional response.  Take "I Am the One (reprise)" from Next to Normal, for example.  The song is a quick reprise and hearing it in a vacuum wouldn't really pack much of a punch.  Inside the story of the show, however, that song gets me every time.  Last week, when we saw the show at Drury Lane, I was SOBBING during this part.  Audibly.  And I fully understand why, since the main character there is the one I most identify with in the show and his...wait, I think I'll save that convo for later. 
Anyway, show tunes.  There have been a number of times I was on stage and had to push through some very emotional moments without cracking.  The main thing that helps is that we'd rehearsed the moment over and over so the emotional response was dulled a bit.  In some shows, like Cabaret, I had to get so completely inside my character (the evil Nazi) for the final lineup that Lee was basically not there to start crying at it all. 
But it's not all about being mopey.  "Stand" by R.E.M. is guaranteed to make me happy.  It's been that way for 23 years and will stay that way for the rest of my life. There are a bunch of songs that come around that remind me of really great times with my family, high school, college, and beyond.  Having that immediate reaction to songs is one of my favorite uncontrollable characteristics. 
This does not mean that I don't get you if you don't relate the same way.  I have a great understanding of how different we all are, and I get that not everyone feels the same way.  I don't feel that way about a lot of things people get all squishy about.  But if you know me and you like me, I'm gonna force you to be quiet and really listen to a song before it's all said and done. And I hope you're okay with that.  Who knows, maybe in time, those non-musical people will be singing the harmonies along with me with a little tear in their eye. 

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