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The Transcending Power of Music

The other day I was driving alone through the mountains on my way to a small town for work. It was a cold, clear day with the sun touching the tops of the mountains, the perfect setting for a long drive. I hit play on one of my favorite playlists, music that I figured would be the perfect selection for the drive. A lot of us have music for different occasions to get us going for a workout, to relax with, or in this case take a long drive with.

Good music has become the soundtrack for our lives. What would that epic battle scene in a movie be without that monstrous score written by a great composer? The anticipation and build-up would be a lot less exciting. Films use music so carefully and perfectly placed to add to the script, that it would be hard to imagine a good movie without them. Moving scenes like when John Cusack’s character in ‘Say Anything’ holds up the ghetto blaster with Peter Gabriels “In your Eyes” loudly coming out, all to get the attention of the girl he loved. A scene that stays with you, is still referenced in other shows to this day, and most of the people who watched it ran out and bought the album “So”. There are a few eighties references here, so for those who are a little younger, you may have to look the movie and album up. The album is still among my favorites. These kinds of moments help shape our lives and bring us back to another time that sparks memories that make up a piece of our past.

The power of music is amazing and has the ability to really set a lasting mood. Surf-style music always brought me the happiest feeling of being at the beach, relaxing, and just that sense of being in the moment. Some may say the Beach Boys were not true Surf Music, but when you're a kid like I was it didn’t matter. I lumped them in with the bands like the Ventures and Dick Dale. My mom liked the Beach Boys a lot and took me to see them, my very first concert at the Pacific Coliseum. I still have vague memories of that, even though I was so young, it was that powerful for me. I remember taking a gondola to get there, the Hot-rods on stage, and the band’s unique sound of course. Lasting impressions helped me form embedded memories held together by the glue that is music.

Scientific studies have suggested that music may reduce stress, lessen anxiety, improve exercise, boost memory, ease pain, provide comfort and improve cognition. I do not need any studies to tell me that and would suggest music does even more…Think about a huge sporting event where the National Anthem and some well-placed popular music to get the crowd engaged and help to keep them that way. I would almost bet that some people tune into the Super Bowl just because of the musical guest at half-time.

Music has the power to inspire us, calm us, make us sad, and remember people and places that have been marked in time by a song or an album. What if I suggested that music is the closest thing we are going to get to a personal Time Machine. What am I talking about? There are few forms of art that time-stamp moments in such a significant way and can take you back to a moment or help you think about a person the way it does. Some of my best memories with my mom can be related to music and our mutual love for it. Throw on a certain Elvis, Zeppelin, or Beach Boys tune and it has the power to take me back to a good moment with her as though no time had passed. How many of you have gotten married and picked your favorite song, or even just been to a wedding and felt like the playlist kinda made the atmosphere. Music brings some serious fun and memories!

I can name more than a few bands, an album, or a song that reminds me of someone special and is a fantastic way to reflect if you haven't seen that person in a while, especially if they are no longer with us. It can take you back, with the help of some good notes that allow the sun to shine again for a moment on a good memory. Then there are times when it may have a negative effect instead and take you somewhere hard.

As much as music has the power to do good, it’s like Issac Newton stated in his Third Law, “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. For every song that’s a favorite and lifts you up, there may be that song that brings you down and takes you back to a place you don’t want to be. I can remember my parents dragging me to a funeral in my teens, where they played a song from the favorite band of the person who died. It was an all-day thing and that song was on repeat. To this day I refuse to listen to that song for a second. It takes me right back to that funeral, a place I didn’t want to be then, let alone now.

Many of us are guilty of the bad break-up where you decide for some reason it’s a good idea to play ballad after ballad right after. I don’t know if it is a coping mechanism, or the want to have a few more moments with the person, or if it is human dumping of emotion to purge that person from our life. I have been guilty of it myself and could not tell you why, but I could probably give you a pretty accurate playlist of the music and where I was at the time. The power of music can bring back sadness or happiness, but we get to choose the moment we go back to and to use music to celebrate again in the future.

When I saw Sting playing upright bass in a black and white video as a kid, it made me want to pursue music and gave me a positive direction to focus. It was perfect timing in my young life. You can read more on this in my first book coming out later this year.

The thing is, there are so many talented musicians from tons of different backgrounds with different styles that have given us a piece of something to help us celebrate, freeze a moment or just relax. The positive side of music has far more to offer than the negative and can create lifelong memories. I have fantastic extremes for memories where music is concerned. I can remember flying to another country to see one of my favorite bands with friends. I can also remember a summer day when I was loudly playing the album I referenced earlier, and a woman knocking on the door to ask who it was. The fact is, music is a universal language that transcends time, cultures, and different languages to give us common ground. A positive thing to bring people together in several different ways.

When I launch Podcast in the next couple of months I am going to have a catchy little piece of opening music carefully chosen by a local group. Music has been a big part of my life whether it is my attempt to play it, listen to it or write about it, and I will continue to make it part of the story moving forward.

If you are one of those people who thinks of music as background noise on hold for a call, in an elevator or shopping…you are missing out. Get out there and see some live music, listen to a recommended album, or pick up an instrument. When I'm done writing this, it’s time to put on something that takes me back to my favorite beach because it is looking a little wintery and gray outside. Who’s your favorite band? Do you have a song that takes you back to a favorite place? Let me know in the comments below or share why music is important to you…

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Bob Hale
Bob Hale
Jun 01, 2022

I agree with your views on music. At my age now, it seems I have many moments when a song is being played that I am immediately taken back to a memory that is associated with it. Like you had mentioned as well, some memories are good and some are....well......not so good. My only regret is that as a young man I started with piano lesson (that I neglected and later dismissed) moving on to junior band in school playing the sax (both alto and baritone), again neglecting and finally dismissing. Perhaps it's something I will challenge myself with later but for now, it only serves as a foundation for my love of all music.

Jun 02, 2022
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I believe it's never too late to chase anything, maybe there's a few things..., but I think music is something you can pick up anytime. The guitar you see in the picture is something I pick up and then put down for different periods of time over the years. It sits there and reminds me to get back to playing, it's also a nice piece of art. Maybe buy something you want to play and have it there reminding you as well...

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