The wounds of a friend

Thoughts on my experiment with music-listening:

Day after Ash Wednesday I loaded up my little black thingy with the contents of about a half dozen different CDs that I have purchased but hardly listened to over the past half dozen or so years and began living with the songs. 

It hasn't been particularly painful.  But none of the songs have gotten under my skin in a good way, either.  

I wouldn't dream of putting down the various artists behind these projects by imagining that all of this new(ish)-to-me music is just too mediocre to grab me.  Rather, I think it's my availability to be grabbed by music that's broken.  Hence this experiment, an intentional practice to re-acquaint my psyche with the power of song.

I'm not interested in trying to force anything, but maybe I haven't been going at this in the most effective way.

Maybe the music needs more complete attention from me, like when I was a teenager and would lie on my bed with the liner notes of a new album, fully concentrating on the first listen through.

Or maybe I need to go to a concert or two.  Live music is so much more, well, alive.  

Or maybe I need to listen to some of that scary music that I know I loved back when I used to listen to recorded music regularly.  

With a combination of happy anticipation of revisiting old favorites and anxiety that I might thereby touch on old wounds, I added another half dozen or so familiar albums to my music player, including the three disks that I had most assiduously been avoiding.  Part of me even hoped that this re-listening would skewer something in me.  At least pain would prove that music can still make me feel.

Instead, the experience (of listening to dangerous disk 1; disk 2 is playing as I write this) was rather like that of rereading Jane Eyre after more than a decade -- a curious exposure to pleasant but nearly-forgotten terrain.  

When I did get to the one song in particular that I had been cringing in anticipation of, the tension almost instantly dissolved.  One little phrase carried a weight of meaning and memory that I hadn't wanted to go near, but in the context of the whole song, what I had expected to be a painful recollection was a word of consolation.  It was coming upon an old friend who understood instantly my apprehension and greeted me with a gentle smile and open arms.

I had forgotten that the song with the troubling lyric had been my favorite one on the album -- and it is again.


Steve Lansingh said...

I am following your Lenten journey with piqued interest, Rachel. I have found something similar has happened with me and music over the years, where I just kind of stopped buying albums and the newest albums from favorite artists get listened to once. Like I've lost the capacity to be engaged. A similar thing has happened to me with movies; I still watch quite a few but all of the ones that I love, the ones that I have secured from my collection, are largely 1993-2003, with only a handful of exceptions. I appreciate and like plenty of current films, but I don't love them. I am wondering if this is related in any way to simply growing older. I think a lot of my first encounters with ideas, emotions, and beauty were in the context of art, in music and film, and so it didn't take much to sweep me into rapture. Every film, every album was a new journey of discovery. But over time, you begin to understand Ecclesiastes, and the feeling that there's nothing new under the sun. It takes a lot more to impress. Those sparks of revelation and insight and joy in beauty are a little harder to come by when you've been exposed to more. At least that how it feels to me: like a saturation point. I am finding your points fascinating because they are a return after a long absence, a wringing of the sponge, if you will, and beginning to dip a corner back in.

I am feeling something similar in my Lenten journey, even though it's not music related. I am coming out of a bit of a dry spell of not reading books for nearly two years (almost entirely due to having a baby). I still read a lot, but on the internet, probably because most of the material there is bite-sized and that's all the sustained concentration I could muster. But for Lent I gave up Web 1.0 (and have instead focused mainly on using the internet to connect to people again, hence this blog comment) and that's given me the time to read an actual book. I am in the midst of my second time checking "Surprised by Hope" out of the library, and this time I've actually made it through the first third. I am feeling that spark of joy, that rush of discovery again, as he explains so much so cohesively that I had grasped only in pieces before. There is a part of me that simply laments reading the book, that he even had to write the book, that the church has lost connection with this touchstone theology, and what that says about us. But mostly, I am feeling a waking, an enlivening, a sense of not-dead-yet that I've not known for a long while.

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