Music as Evolution: Spinning the Soundtrack to Life

If you stopped someone on the street and asked him why he liked a particular song, there’s a higher likelihood that the response you’d get would simply be something along the lines of “because I do.”

Unfortunately, I’ve found a limited number of people who actually spend time thinking about why they enjoy the music they do, let alone someone who is willing to talk about it. Music for me is not just about listening to notes and lyrics as entertainment.

Music is about each beat, the rhythm, the movement and the way the actual sound makes you feel. Music is a collaboration of the artist’s instruments, beats and lyrics all united for a single purpose: to tell a story. The story can be humorous, tragic or inspirational, but it’s this combination of elements that I look for in a good song.

A good song can entertain you; a great song can make you feel alive. With a potent mixture of fantastic instruments playing notes of the right fit, the correct beat allowing you to feel as though your footfalls match the same, and lyrics that speak to your heart, a great song can be the greatest high you can ever experience, greater than any drug you can find.

Above all, a good song is a true testament to the artist’s ability, for those who write their own songs, it tests their ability as producers to find and arrange the correct class of instruments, as songwriters, not only to find exquisite lyrics that will convey the story they wish to tell, but above all, to find the correct flow of notes onto the sheets.

To truly immerse yourself in the music is to ask yourself each time you listen to a song; what is the artist trying to say, what message are they trying to make sure you understand, and how does it make you feel? Are you able to connect with the picture the lyrics paint in your mind, does it relate to your life and your experiences?

Over the years, from Michael Jackson to Evanescence, I’ve encountered a lot of music, from all genres across the board that I would deem to be songwriting and producing perfection. The tireless hours, blood, sweat and tears that a competent artist spends on his/her or their craft cannot be made up for by manufactured so-called ‘image’ music.

What I refer to as ‘image’ music refers to the names and the celebrities attached to the art of songwriting, those who make more money in sponsorship deals and tabloid headlines. There are those, without naming names, who ride the coattails of their parents, or on their images of being sex symbols in order to sell their records.

Quite frankly, the state of much of the music industry of the 21st century disgusts me, and I choose instead to listen to artists that the majority of their music does not receive mainstream airplay. For those artists, it is not about image, it is about blood and tears, and a God-given talent to place what they feel, what they think and what they’ve experienced that they can’t forget, onto the page. What airplay they receive comes from niche stations and publicity off official websites, social networking sites and fan generated appreciation.

It is these artists that create the soundtrack that is my everyday life. Each note from a guitar, drum or cello brings inspiration; each word paints poetic ideals in my mind. Much of what they share with the world I have also felt in my life.

I feel as though my relationship with music and song comes full circle. The artist(s) shares his/her or their vision with the world, their thoughts, feelings, experiences and inspiration, and in turn it is inspiration for me to write my own interpretation of their words and the pictures they paint.

The soundtrack of my life does indeed have different artists from genres I would have never previously taken an interest in, but each one serves as inspiration and serves to melt reality and make ideas that much sharper in my mind.

Music is something that can lift you higher than you’ve ever been before and yet simultaneously bring you back down to earth when it’s over. Music is the only thing in this world that I believe continually is being re-interpreted and re-invented and that lasts through all ages.

For every manufactured tabloid image in the music industry, there are those who spend years of blood, poverty, tears and pain to achieve even moderate success. And it is to them that I send a salute and let them know to continue honing their craft because there will always be one person drawing inspiration from their exceptional abilities.


The Art in Everyday: Creative Expression in Movement

A thought occurred to me recently in regards to artistic expression. I was re-watching clips of UFC 83: Serra vs. St. Pierre II, which for those of you who don’t know, was Matt Serra’s first defense of his welterweight championship; and Georges St. Pierre’s first attempt to get it back since losing it to Matt during UFC 69.

Georges won, becoming the undisputed UFC welterweight champion of the world, but I realized something different as I was watching these clips of what has become the fight of the century for me, as a die-hard GSP, as we call him, fan. As I watched both men trade blows and GSP work his arsenal of takedown and submission methods, it seemed like artistic expression to me, like poetry in motion.

This way of thinking was a new one for me, because even with my family background and my own interest in martial arts, I had never once thought of it as being a form of expression. It had always been regarded by me as a form of exercise as well as self defense, but not as a way of revealing your thoughts and feelings.

As I watched GSP move from standing up with Matt to taking him down and attempting an armbar, he was displaying his thought process and strategy to the world. Inadvertently, he was also revealing the respect he had for Matt in his stand up game as well as being a fighter in general.

In older martial arts movies that I grew up on, such as Jet Li’s Wong Fei Hong series, the fluidity in their movements weaves a story about their thoughts and their self expressions in the moves that they choose to make during that particular time in response their opponent.

Aside from martial arts, however, there is art in the way someone slides a bow across a group of strings, as I watched a violinist busking in the street just today. The control that he had in how much of his self expression he wanted to reveal, the execution in the notes he chose to play, were all a part of the poetry that exists in movement.

There are movements that we would never consider to be poetic, and yet to me, seem to tell a story. I saw two teens once, young men, who usually would be loud and boisterous on public transit, curiously silent. Instead, the pair of friends were signing to each other and laughing silently at what the other was saying. The intricate way in which their hands moved was almost like a dance. Watching them, it proved the belief that the majority of communication does not come from your verbalized words.

They were different in the way they expressed themselves, with their hands flying from symbol to symbol, but they showed me why there’s art in the everyday, why even common movements can be looked at as poetry.

Seeing a performer leap and reach out across a stage is not simply dance to me, but the expression of an emotion, a story and an experience strong enough to knock you off your feet and hit you like a ton of bricks.

To be able to view a powerful, soul-invoking performance of someone dancing on stage is like feeling alive for the first time; allowing yourself to truly feel and be enveloped in the emotion of the dance as though it was your life.  

Movement is not simply for money or for everyday common occurrences. There is poetry and emotion in watching a mother fly kites with her daughter, two friends stop and chat over coffee.  Every movement creates a picture and that picture in turn, invokes emotion.

Even in the midst of blood, sweat, tears, injury and the threat of defeat, there is poetry and emotion that is ingrained in the lives of all mixed martial arts fighters. Even though there is the promise of violence of varying degrees, to see the intricate webs of strategy and thought spun out in the Octagon, and thrill of victory is poetic motion.

The art in the everyday lies all around us, it’s simply a matter of noticing those around you. And perhaps, allow your mind to open to poetry and art of all forms and possibilities.