Many of you know my recent love affair with the show Freaks & Geeks (RIP). I just watched the final episode on Sunday…which is only slightly devastating. There is a scene where Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) is given a Grateful Dead album to listen to in order to solve some angst she is feeling. Later in the episode, we find her in her room listening to the album, re-listening to certain songs, dancing in her room, laying on the ground taking it all in. Something in the midst of those songs moved her. There’s an unspoken connection and the series ends with her going with some friends to a multi-city Grateful Dead tour. While I don’t think this is the way everyone should react to great music (dropping all responsibility and following a band around), it was a great example of how music can move someone to risk and communicate what is often unspoken.
On Saturday, I took a surprise trip into town to Amy’s (incredible Ice Cream shop in Houston) and swung over to Cactus Music (one of the only great music stores left in Houston) with one of my roommates. I looked around for a while before finding a vinyl tribute to John Prine (whom I had never heard of). The compilation showcased a few of my favorite artists (Josh Ritter & Bon Iver), plus I liked the album artwork, so I bought it. All my roommates were gone for the evening, so when I got home, I sat in my chair next to my record player, put on the vinyl and just listened. When I really liked a song, I would move the needle to play it again. I sat with my tea, listened and enjoyed new music by artists I love honoring a truly great writer. It was a rare moment of rest, reflection, and enjoyment. There was that same unspoken connection that I saw in that episode of Freaks & Geeks one day later.
When I was a kid, I loved music just as much as (and sometimes I worry even more than) I do now. I remember getting the new Mariah Carey album “Music Box“, plugging in my giant headphones with a mile long cord, lying on my bed, reading through all the lyrics, and being in a complete state of bliss. There would be moments of tears, moments wondering if I’d ever feel what she felt, and moments when I just couldn’t believe she could sing notes at that octive! I would give concerts to kids at the nearby park (while I was on the swing set) of songs from that album. I can hear myself now belting “Hero” to girls a few years younger than me (they would later request “A Whole New World” from Aladdin…that might have been the only time I’ve felt like a rock star). Even at the age of 8, there was that unspoken connection.
Now, I wonder about this unspoken connection in a world that is so consumer driven that music is just a commodity you can have a million of. I can have songs for years without ever hearing them, ever remembering the title to the song, album or even artist. Rare are the moments of sitting with my headphones on a bed or next to a chair with my vinyl player being entrenched by melodies and stories (even more rare are the moments when I give concerts on a swing set…who knows though, I may start that tour up again). Seeing that scene this past Sunday made me realize there is a universal language that IS music. And I love that whether you are a music enthusiast or the creator of every line and beat to a song, you can understand that language. While I worry at times that it may become an unspoken tongue (along with sanskrit and pig-latin) with the speed of everyday life, I know we all have those moments in the car listening to the radio, walking to class with an iPod, or streaming songs during work, where that language is alive and speaks. And that unspoken connection is still there.
So, today, I’ll be buying that Grateful Dead album and listening to those songs. Who knows if I’ll hop on a tie-dyed van and go in search of Jerry Garcia, but I will enjoy it and choose to hear it.