Monday, January 18, 2010

Of Love and Music

Music, few things in this world are so transcendent and eternal. From the first time humans put their hands together and found rhythm, to the complexities of a Beethoven symphony, music has existed as long as we have. It’s one of the few forces that’s unstoppable, endless. It crosses cultures with the ease of the wind to remind us we all share the connection of being human regardless of who we are or where we come from.

Music has always been in the background of my life. Memories of my early childhood are filled with listening to my father play rock on his Les Paul or Fender Stratocaster, and as I write this now a Mozart compilation CD is playing. It was while listening to the Queen II album I realized I wanted to pursue writing seriously. With always having a love of music, melding it with my love for writing in crafting my novel, CONQUEST, was the ultimate combination.

In the time since CONQUEST has been released, I’ve been asked many times who are my favorite musicians, are Jesse and Evan based off any real life singers, what band does Conquest sound like. While in my mind I have a clear vision for what the band Conquest as a whole sounds like, and I can clearly hear the tenor of Jesse, the baritone of Evan, there isn’t any one particular band or singer who I know of that’d sound exactly like them, which is perhaps the best thing about them. As people read about Jesse and Evan, they can make their sound their own.

For me, there’s nothing more wonderful than when a reader tells me they hear my characters in the music they love. I’ve come to learn and appreciate how valuable music is to people, how if there’s one topic many are eager to discuss, it’s their favorite musicians. Music binds us all. Different cultures, different ages, different social classes, different genders, we can all be touched by that one chord, that one beautiful voice.

And it’s here that the cliché follows as I say that love is the same way. Like the first notes of a song that resonates instantly within the heart, so does love. Can anyone of us really say why we like the music we do? Sure we can say it’s the singer, it’s the beat, but what strikes you doesn’t always strike another. Can any of us say why we love who we do? Certainly we can say because they’re attractive, they have a great sense of humor. But we don’t fall in love with every attractive person we see. We don’t want to enter a relationship with everyone who makes us laugh. So when it comes down to it, what music we listen to, who we share our lives with, from our souls to our physical bodies, it’s simply who we are.

Am I thinking too deeply on it, or perhaps too simply? Just like music, that’s for you to interpret. All I know is there’s a reason why love songs are so popular, why so many couples have a song and how others turn to music for comfort when a breakup occurs. Just like how we live our lives by the relationships we have, romantic and otherwise, many of us mark the moments in our lives by songs. I’ve used music make happy times richer, sad times easier to bear. I’ve heard my exact emotions in the lyrics of a person I’ve never and will never meet, felt my mood reflected in the notes of a piano.

Years ago, I worked as a manager in a large multi-media store. I was standing at a cash register one day and saw a woman about to leave empty handed. She looked upset, and so I asked if she had found everything okay. She glanced at me, her face holding so much sadness.

“No,” she said. “I was looking for a song, but your associate couldn’t find it. But it’s not his fault. I don’t know the name or who sings it.”

I stepped around the counter to stand by her. “Do you know any of the lyrics? Was it a man or woman singing?”

“It was a man, and his voice was just so beautiful. The song, it’s about knowing someone is still close to you.”

I saw her eyes moisten, it seemed to take more effort for her to speak. I smiled, because I knew the artist and song. “You’re looking for Josh Groban.”

Hope filled her expression. “Do you think that’s who it is?”

I nodded. “Come with me.”

I took her back to the music section and Josh Groban’s self-titled debut CD, which had only recently been released at that time. I picked it up from the rack and held it toward her. “This is it. The song is, ‘To Where You Are’.”

She held the CD, staring down at the cover. “I wish I could be sure before I bought it.” She looked up, instantly apologetic. “I’m not saying you don’t know, I just wish I could hear it first.”

I didn’t know the meaning this song held for her, but knew whatever it was, it held great importance. “No, it’s alright. Let’s go over here.”

We walked over to the displayed stereos and I took the CD back from her. I tore away the plastic wrap to the brand new, not-yet-purchased CD.

She looked at me with wide eyes. “Should you be doing that?”

“No,” I laughed. “But it’s okay.”

I popped the CD in the player, skipped to the right song, and as the first notes sounded with Josh’s rich baritone floating over them, the woman’s expression became a mix of joy and sadness.

She turned to me. “That’s the one. That’s it.” Then before I knew it, she wrapped her arms around me in a gentle hug and softly said, “Thank you.”

I had never seen her before, and never saw her again, but in that brief moment, music brought us together. It didn’t matter who either of us were, where we came from, what beliefs we held. In that moment, music made us nothing more than two people sharing in its beauty.

In writing CONQUEST, my passion for music grew to a new height, as did my understanding about it and love. Now I wonder, what musicians have touched you? Who is your favorite artist? Is there one special song that brings you back to a moment in your life? I would love to know, but I also understand that music can be very private and personal, just like love. So as you finish reading this, take a moment and think of all the harmonies that have played in the background of your life and how music has touched you.


Jeanne Barrack said...

Oh, Shannon, you know you touched the right button with me.
Like you music has always been a part of my life. My mom was a singer and sang to me even before I was born. And I sing many different types of music
Some music, singers and songs who have affected me:
Placido Domingo singing En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor
The Flower Duet from Lakme
Anything by Mozart, especially the Requiem
Max Bruch's arrangement of Kol Nidre for cello
All of my work has been inspired to some degree or other to music

S.J. Frost said...

Thanks so much, Jeanne! That's so beautiful how your mother would sing to you, and so cool that you're a singer also. My mother would sing "Que Sera Sera" to me and the song has stayed with me all these years.

I'm so with you on Placido Domingo. The man's voice...*sigh*, just magnificent. And Mozart, the first two cassette tapes I ever bought (yeah, CDs weren't around then), were Beethoven and Mozart.

And I know what you mean about music inspiring your work. It's my greatest inspiration :-)

Jeanne Barrack said...

When I was in college eons ago, I used to take my breaks in the school library and listen to recordings, everything from Gregorian chants to Broadway.
There are some musical phrases that are just so incredible, like the words "beloved" in Romberg's Serenade from "The Student Prince" or "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise" from The New Moon and the phrase "so ends the story" are so passionate.
Anyway, loved the post

Kathy K said...

Geez Shannon... dear heavens you can write! But then I knew that. :-)

Music and reading, two big loves in my life and I have connections between them and the people that I love as well. There have been so many songs over the many, many years that have spoken to me.
I can remember when we were young children and my mom and dad would play some of their classical musical albums (LPs back then *grin*). I remember listening to The Moldau; my mom was transported and my parents would, again and again over the years, ask which instruments we could hear. So beautiful.. the memories and the music.
And I've got favourite songs in so many different genres. I listen to music the way I read books ~ everything and lots of it.

And wow, I'm all teary-eyed just remembering all the connections. Thank you!

Amber Green said...

Made a list of these to listen to.

wren boudreau said...

What a lovely story!

A song special in my heart is (believe it or not) Guns 'n' Roses "Sweet Child O' Mine". When my son was younger he played guitar in a band and this was one of the songs they did. When the guitar riff plays I can picture my own kid just pouring his love into the music.

And then there's "Ten Minutes Ago" from "Cinderella", which my husband sang to me long before he was my husband.

I'm glad you mentioned this post on Ethan's yahoo group!

S.J. Frost said...

Oh man, Jeanne, Gregorian Chants, I love them! I have a CD of them and a box set of Medieval music. Some of the most beautiful lines and poetry (because I believe a gifted songwriter is very much a poet) I've ever heard has been in songs.

Aww, thank you, Kathy! I totally agree. Memories and music hold hands throughout our lives. It's amazing how a song can take us directly back to a moment in our lives, no matter how many years pass. It's one of the reasons I find it so very important.

Happy listening, Amber! Lots of beautiful candy for the ears has been mentioned here by everyone :-)

Thank you, Wren! What a beautiful memory for you to have when you hear "Sweet Child O' Mine." That one and "November Rain" are my two favorite songs by Guns 'n' Roses. And that's so sweet your husband would sing to you. Nothing's more wonderful than being serenaded by the one you love, or are destined to love.

Jeanne Barrack said...

Oh, Ten Minutes Ago is such a sweet song. I have a fondness for "In My Own Little Corner".

Jardonn Smith said...

Shannon: Like music itself does, your post lifted my spirits. It is amazing how songs can instantly change one's mood. I find that if I'm having a down day, a song, any song, even if it's something tragic like, say, Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit, will without fail send my blues packing. Thank you for expressing in words what we all feel in our hearts.

S.J. Frost said...

Thank you so much for your kind words, Jardonn. I couldn't agree more with you on how music can change a person's mood. It often does for me. It's amazing how it can ease and lift one's spirit, which is why I think it's so deeply ingrained in us all.