Thursday, April 3, 2008

Why do I write music?

Current answers (not in order of importance):

1. I write music as a way of getting in touch with where I'm at internally -- to wrestle through emotions, ideas and experiences.
2. I write music as a way of connecting with God. Usually this involves admitting my need for divine help and asking for it.
3. I write music because I love to explore -- sounds, ideas, feelings, dreams, memories, etc.
4. I write music for the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a project (holding the cd in my hand).
5. I write music to help make a living (concerts, cd sales, etc).
6. I write music because music can open me up to what's real that I'm usually ignoring or unaware of.
7. I write music in hopes that it will create space for other people to get in touch with themselves and reality, and connect with God.

The last goal is an important one, although if I had put too much stock in it, I'd have quit long before now. It's pretty rare that I
hear from people about a specific way in which my music impacted their lives. I just got an email like that -- I want to share some of it with you:

"Those two albums (Caught in the Paydirt and Now) have been the onlythings I've been listening to (in the last while). Every once and a while I hit an album or an artist that I listen to to the exclusion of everything else. Maroon 5 recently, Jason Mraz before that, maybe a few others from high school if I really thought about it.

These two albums have been the most incredible counter-point and compliment to the emotion of the season for me. I haven't even been able to get down into the details of each of the songs, since I've just been absorbing the whole flow and texture of the music. Being emotionally tender and introspective without becoming melancholic is a really difficult balance for me to walk out.

As I'm writing this I'm realizing that what I've needed more than anything is someone or something to dialog with about my internal state, and that's what your music has been giving me. I'm completely convinced that I would not have been able to come out of the last week feeling as safe, settled, and comforted as I have without all of the dimensions of your albums."

A couple reflections about what my friend Justin wrote:
1. Ok, Ok, already -- it's worth it.

2. He listened to the music in a focused, open, and repetitive way. This has a lot to do with music connecting on a deeper level. I want to listen like this more, and I want to connect with listeners who do this or are learning to.

3. The music helped create space for introspection that wasn't destructively melancholic. A songwriter I admire told me that the songwriter has a sacred trust to deliver something of value that has the "completeness" of truth to it. I tend to be very process-oriented and let people in to the journey with me (in all it's messiness and confusion), so I sometimes fall short of that standard. Taking pain seriously and moving through it is different than avoiding or wallowing in it.

Still, the only way to learn to do that is to take space and work at it. Justin is a disciplined person committed to growth -- I think this is part of why the music was so helpful to him. Also I see it as the goodness of God working to bring comfort through whatever channels are open to be used for that. I'm attempting to open myself and my music to be used in that way.

I was encouraged and challenged by that email: to keep going, to listen more deeply to music (and people and life) and to face and move through pain rather than avoid or numb it.


PS: Justin is a writer.


Kimberly said...

Excellent post. Makes me want to think about why I do music or write.

Also - your link to justin's blog didn't work. Maybe the address is wrong?

Jonathan Reuel Live said...

Kimberly, thanks for commenting--and-- I fixed the link.. it is now working. :)