Music has always been a big part of my life. Everyone in my family, with the exception of my long-suffering father, grew up playing multiple instruments, including violin, clarinet, cello, flute, piano, and the ubiquitous guitar. My mother taught guitar for many years, though she never formally taught any of us. I suppose my brothers and I picked that instrument up by osmosis.
Given this environment, music is something I think about from different perspectives. As a participant, as a musician, as an aspiring songwriter, as a connoisseur, as a former bar-bander. But there’s another perspective I’ve been wondering about lately.
The pervasiveness of music in our culture.
Music is everywhere you turn to listen. Elevators, holding on the phone, wafting through the background of stores, stereos at home and office and in cars, iPods and iPhones, television shows, films. Kids dream of winning American Idol or the Voice or whatever the latest rocket-ride to musical fame that Hollywood has whipped up.
Why is music so pervasive these days? It was never like this before.
My theory is that we want a soundtrack for our lives. We consume so much media laced with music that we’ve slowly become accustomed to the idea that music somehow lends more meaning to life, that the painstakingly orchestrated and auto-tuned lives we see onscreen are somehow more real than our own.
There’s nothing further from the truth.
But, there’s also nothing closer to the truth.
I find, as I get older, that I enjoy silence more. Silence clarifies. It’s restful and it focuses. In no way does my love of silence diminish my love of music. They’re simply different.
Though, perhaps not.
Because there is no such thing as silence.
Whether you subscribe only to the materialistic view of life or the theist view of life, all that exists sings. Electrons whisper in their orbits. The tiny engines of cellular life whiffle and tick as they revolve in their duties. Rain drums on roofs. Blood and fluid pulse in the veins of animals and plants. Ant feet skitter across stone. Lightning rips at the fabric of air. The winds rustle and moan. The event horizon of a black hole stretches across an expanse of space, impossibly distant from our blissfully ignorant little planet, and who is to say that such a magnificent collapse of destruction has not it’s own strange soundtrack?
I suppose we cannot escape our need for a soundtrack, whether we strive to fill it with hip-hop or jazz or classical or simply silence. However, the silent version, in all of its grand orchestration of life, I think, is more true.