Me, Myself, and Music

So, today, in order to unwind from a particularly long work week, I decided to spend my afternoon taking in a movie. Naturally, I opted for one of the only non-blockbustery films since those usually come with lots of tension and explosions, and sat down to watch ‘Begin Again’. I’m really glad I did.

For those that don’t know, the film (starring Kiera Knightly and Mark Ruffallo, among others) is about two people in need of a new beginning. One a washed up music producer, the other a singer-songwriter coming off a long term relationship, stuck in a country and a city that’s nothing but painful reminders. They meet and bond over music, and giving a big middle finger to whatever man has recently screwed them (including the man, her man, and himself).

If you ask me, which I’m assuming you are since you’re here, whether or not you enjoy the movie (and to what degree) depends entirely on your relationship with music.

Mine is a very particular one, and one I’m sure many share. I love music. In fact, I think it’s completely essential to life and to experience and to helping shape your own worldview.

I’ve always loved music, growing up in a relatively musical environment, though I’m not nearly as musically inclined as the rest of my family (go listen to some of my sister’s stuff if you’d like an example), but there’s something about the way I experience music that I’ve never really known how to put into words properly. Whatever way I feel about it, I believe that every moment, experience, scene in your life has a perfect soundtrack, and that music only enhances the moments around you.

When I lived in Philadelphia, I spent a lot of time walking around downtown, and when I walked I’d listen to music. During my first summer I listened to Foster the People’s ‘Torches’ album on repeat for weeks. ‘Helena Beat’ and ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ still make me feel like I’m strolling down Walnut Street or standing in Logan Circle.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, while I’ve never traveled overseas, traditional Celtic music (or even music influenced by it), gives me this feeling in my gut that is simultaneously heavy and light. Like there’s some sort of past (or dare I say it, magic) waiting to be uncovered. It’s part of why I’ve romanticized Ireland and Scotland, and why I can’t wait to experience their reality at some point in my life (good or bad).

While I was in Philly I spent some time interning on an independent film. Part of our time in the office was spent attempting to find music to add to the soundtrack that would be inexpensive to license. This meant there were days when a lot of random singer-songwriter-type music filled the office. We started playing a game where we’d start a song and after listening for a moment we’d name what kind of scene we pictured just based on the sound (walking on the beach, getting coffee in a tiny urban cafe, an intimate moment in the park, etc.). That was the first time I think I realized that I wasn’t the only person who equated music with experience, real or imagined.

There’s this scene in ‘Begin Again’ where the two of them walk around the city listening to random music on her phone. They live inside the music for what for them is a few hours and you can see how the music changes the setting. Times Square is a completely different place when ‘Luck Be a Lady’ is playing in the background. At one point, Ruffallo’s character says something to the effect of “music changes the world around you. It makes all the banal moments something beautiful.” That’s exactly how I feel about it.

What about you?