I Believe in Music
In the rainy winter of my freshman year of college I found myself one of five students in a seminar on the life and music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The most inspiring meeting of this inspired course was the lesson dedicated to Saint Matthew’s Passion. With eyes closed as instructed, I let its heartbreak wash over me and I think I understood what it must feel like to believe in God. But it is music that I believe in because it is music that saves me, and saves me again.
I am a weak person. The trials of daily life batter me and I am a crier to the point of impracticality. I would be overdoing it if I told you that “Pacing the Cage” by Jimmy Buffet saved my life, but I do believe it saved my college career. This spare, dark song found me at my grimmest, resonated with me, and stood me on my feet every day until it got easy again. Tim Buckley singing “Dolphins”, Jeff Buckley covering “Hallelujah”, Scott Avett passing the spotlight to his brother Seth with the words “may you find the joy a melody brings / from my dear brother’s ragged six string,” or that moment in “Passenger Seat” when Death Cab for Cutie’s lead singer lands so gently, so richly on the word “smile.” I believe in it all: a well-finished phrase in a pop song, a surging, soaring baroque masterpiece marching towards tragedy. Some lyrics encourage while others commiserate. This rhythm gets me dancing, that minor key brings tears. Whatever the content or intent, if it is beautiful it makes me want to be better, be stronger.
I am not any better or stronger than I have ever been, but every day I have music to make me want to try again. Today it is “Smiley Faces” and Gnarls Barkley asking me “What went right? / What when wrong? / Was it story or was it a song? / Was it overnight or did it take you long? / Was knowing your weakness what made you strong?” Uplift is never more than an awesome key change away. I am so lucky. I am not the only one. I believe in music.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.