Sunday, December 2, 2012

Madness & Groove

As a lad, I used to dabble with music. I played the piano, violin, saxophone, mandolin, guitar, but I never went all out with one instrument, mastering chord theory and harmonics, etc. And I wish I did. Ever more I recognize the power of sounds, not just via sweet melodies or tones, but also in textures. There are some textures that are quick to get under my skin, for instance a car alarm, or my girlfriend's grating blender.  Precise cacophonous sounds like these have the power to stop me in my tracks, and shut down my concentration in a deep, petty way. 

Yet sounds also have that power to sooth, such as water lightly bobbing and echoing in a tub, and excite - food frying. And complex music can wash away a rotten day, the gunky build up of angst addled karma. Since we're in the throes of Christmas now, I think of Nat King Cole singing O Holy Night. That song will forever give me the chills. 

And I wonder how exactly these sounds trigger us. They're like keys not only along the musical scale, but are buttons as on a garage door. Certain sounds are the pass code to unlocking behavior. Some combinations may work differently on the neural sensory pathways of different people. Some may not give a shit about Nat King Cole's rendition of O Holy Night and many may be un-phased when a blender is suddenly on and grinding at arrhythmic intervals. 

As music and sound can be recorded with physical means, such as grooves on a record, or magnetically (tapes) or digitally, these electromagnetic waves can get themselves etched in our unforgiving memories, intertwining with other pathways. I must have had a splendid Christmas one year with O Holy Night as background music. Perhaps as a child I had a bad run-in with a blender, and so anger floods now when a blender makes itself known. 

But I also stop to think about the potential of a collective unconscious sometimes, and how emotional reactions to music may not be so much clipped into personal memories, there's a reason why a million plus people get a deep kick out of seeing a certain musical group live.  They seem to melt with the progression of the music. I've had experiences like these, seeing and hearing a band for a first time. The music itself surely not background to an old memory, but a new experience, electromagnetically unlocking behavior. 

And I'm not alone in hating the sounds of grating things, or the sound of the car alarm that won't stop piercing awareness.

On a cosmic level, I wonder if energy patterns can act like grooves of a record, and certain chord progressions (I mean, B minor tends to make us all melancholic) excite the quantum particles along these unseen electromagnetic grooves. Since our bodies are electric conduits when it comes down to it, many of us will be swept up this burst of flow. But of course not all. Some, for whatever reasons of stress and neural shut down, may be closed to these channels, and so the wild behaviors and madness may not be sparked by the groove of a certain tune.

And the more energy sucked into the flow of the groove, the deeper it gets, until, it scratches. We get stuck for a bit, then we move on, ushering on new musical eras. But every once in awhile we discover that old cosmic record and it still possesses an ancient aural power over us. Stumbling upon the jukebox plugged into that mysterious Akashic record, we, for a moment, can go back in time, and lose ourselves.

And so I wish I had stuck with music. The architecture of sound, when mastered, can exert much control over people, for better or worse. I hope I don't come across as a mini Napoleon wanting to take over the world, more so I'm interested, at the risk of sounding like a hippie, how good music can save the world.

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