Gentle On My Mind

“‘ I’d like to add some beauty to life,’ said Anne dreamily. ‘I don’t exactly want to make people know more, though I know that is the noblest ambition… But I’d love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me… To have some little joy or happy thought that would have never existed if I hadn’t been born.'”

-L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island

Today I was listening to my go-to Sunday music, the Original London Cast recording of “the seminal Broadway classic” Les Miserables. Ohhhh how my heart beats for everything Les Mis. I was first introduced to it when I was about five years old.
Grandmothers are so exceptional for reasons which go without saying, but I will forever find my Nanny (as I call her) a “benefactress” because it was she who exposed me to the poignant, so-soul-stirring- that-it-feels-familiar-even-though-you-have-never-experienced-it-before-sort-of-way, musical perfection that is Les Miserables. I remember oftentimes in the summer I would go to work with my Nanny and it was during those summer morning drives when she would play the soundtrack and with each song, “mellifluously” describe to me what was happening to the characters and why they were singing what they were singing. I remember being distinctly affected by so many of the songs, even as a little girl, and not just  because of the words, but also feeling susceptible to the music itself. The strike of certain chords would trigger something so tender within me that it would bring my little five year old eyes to delicate tears. Ever since that summer, now twenty one years later, I remain nothing less than completely enamored with that music and the story itself, which I ended up reading years later in middle school. I believe that this early experience with music was what instigated what I now refer to as my utter and complete susceptibility to music. To this day, I can’t hear certain chords without being held captive by a tear or two.

Awhile back I happened upon this quote from Victor Hugo (author Les Miserables, the novel on which “my” beloved musical is based): “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” What a perceptive statement to make, for over a hundred years after his renowned novel was published, writers with their own incalculable gift for music would translate Hugo’s words into an epic musical phenomenon in which even without the words, one can feel the power of the emotions being expressed in each song. Upon reading Hugo’s quote, and probably in connection to my keen attachment to the play based on his words, I felt that I had never read anything more exquisitely true!

Maybe I was born with a special organ that only functions when I hear “Bring Him Home” (or all of Les Mis for that matter), or Pachelbel Canon, or any of the songs from Anne of Green Gables, or any of Alexandre Desplat’s exquisite scores, or the whole soundtrack to “The Age of Innocence”, or any version of Adagio in G minor, or “The Crisis” by Ennio Morricone. Whether anatomic or not, something physical occurs when I hear something I like. There are just certain chords or measures of songs or songs as a whole that will echo to my core. Ohhhh how my soul just reels. An admitted Emotionist, when I feel anything significant or dramatic, I want to feel it as much as possible. Any emotion is in good company with appropriate background music, right? Happiness (Regina Spektor, Abba, The Beatles), Pain/Sorrow/Heartache (Nina Simone, Ray LaMontagne), Anger (“Bro Hymn” by Pennywise, naturally), Peace (ahhhh Enya), Frisky (Jem, Portugal. The Man, Muse, Bob Marley, The Rolling Stones, Joss Stone), Romantical (Etta James, Carla Bruni, Elvis)… Grungy (Nirvana-ahhh {R.I.P. Kurt C. We miss you desperately})… Just to name a few. I truly believe that some thoughts just cannot come to be without being induced by instrumentals. Though I especially feel a connection to the music itself, which as Hugo stated so eloquently, speaks without words, there are of course lyrics in company with a song that can strike a chord with my soul as well. Indeed, that is why I think we love the songs we love, most of the time- because the songwriters have found a way to express in both word and art that which we sometimes cannot seem to express ourselves. For example, Bob Dylan’s, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” states far better than I ever could all the reasons why leaving is the only option left.
I often wonder which would be more tragical: being deaf or being blind. Naturally my first instinct is to say that being blind would be absolutely unimaginable. Except the opposite- because you’d have to imagine what everything looks like. But living without music… I shudder at the thought of that. It’s just that there are moments in life that not only deserve but cannot be fully lived without background music. Sometimes I’ll hear a song and think, “Oh, this is what falling in love sounds like”, or, “Hmmm, this is what it sounds like when you are divinely happy”, or, “This is what I will hear when my heart loses a part of what makes it beat.” Not literally, of course. How completely enchanting would it be though if there was surround sound wherever we went and whenever we experienced anything significant, an appropriate song would automatically play to accompany the moment? For me, because I saturate my life with music, I just automatically hear those accompanying songs all on my own. My very own “background music” that only I can hear. It’s not as looney tunes as hearing voices, right? It’s like, the experience is the cupcake, and the music is the frosting. The cake is sufficient enough, but the frosting completely transforms the cupcake into something much more appealing and desirable and worth devouring. The cupcake tastes so much better with the frosting; life is so much richer with music. Maybe I just find too much surrender in the tunes and chords and notes and lyrics that I hear. But I’d rather live eargasmically than impartially. After all, if so much of “the music to my ears” contributes to thoughts otherwise never “synapse’d”, well it’s certainly more dangerous to never tread that territory than to tread it.

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. So I won’t even try.

Peace and Love.

3 thoughts on “Gentle On My Mind

  1. I haven't yet heard a song on your little playlist there that I didn't like…so I'm gonna go with you having exceptionally good taste.

    (Can I use “gonna” on this blog? It almost seems sacrilegious.)


  2. “I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.” -Oscar Wilde

    Your post made me think of this. I love you.


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