Music has always done things to me. For one thing, certain melodies and chord progressions have the ability to make me feel sad, undone even. Sometimes I cry, even if the lyrics that go along with the music aren’t all that sad.
I can still remember when I was very young, sometimes the congregation where my family worshipped would begin singing one of a handful of hymns that never failed to melt me. Before they’d sung the second or third line, I would burst into tears, stricken by the melodies or the harmonies or whatever it was that I heard.
What I’m describing has stayed with me through the years. But these days, it’s not so much the church songs. More often, it’s popular music and some classical pieces that blow me away.
For example, one of the most haunting songs I’ve ever heard is Pink Floyd's “Us and Them." If I happen to listen to it from beginning to end, the song never fails to send me into this glassy-eyed funk, with me loving it all the while. If I’m listening to it on the radio, and “Funkville” isn't where I want to go, then I have to switch stations. Immediately.
Ecstatic music also does things to me, like make me happily manic or manically happy. . . . Something like that. Some songs, especially when the volume’s cranked, make me sweat. When I’m having this sort of experience with music, I’m sure that my heart rate is much higher than normal. I could mention several songs here. But in the interests of not looking too much like a complete Philistine, I’ll simply say that most of those titles would be found in that section of your local record store labeled “Head Banging!”
When I was still in grade school I used to think that no one else had my sort of relationship with music. Who else was blubbering in church? I imagined that I was the only one who knew what I knew. As long as that illusion lasted, it was never a burden, like being the only kid who sees dead people. Instead, it was like a secret that I just kept to myself.
As time went on and my world got a little larger I realized, of course, that without it being exactly the same other people did know what I knew. Music did things to them too.
As I grew up spiritually, I came to recognize music as one the greatest things God ever gave us; both the capacity and all of the good reasons to sing and make music in our hearts. Isn’t is sweet?
And now, a few of my current favorites in sometimes-strange categories:
1. Favorite Traditional Christmas Song: “O Come, All Ye Faithful”
2. Favorite Traditional Hymn: “Love Divine” by Charles Wesley. The beginning of the stanza, “Finish then thy new creation . . .” is one of those tear jerkers for me.
3. Favorite Hymn I Really Don’t Know, but Have Heard a Time or Two: “Ancient Words” (by Michael W. Smith?) This one is something special. If a congregation sings it well right before the preacher stands up they’re guaranteed to get a better sermon.
4. Favorite Communion Song: “We Saw Thee Not” Tune by the Restoration Movement’s own “Singing Evangelist,” Knowles Shaw. My ears are older than the rest of me. Can you tell?
5. Favorite Movie Soundtrack: “The Sting.” Some of the best Ragtime ever.
6. Favorite Recorded Groove: Steely Dan’s, “Peg.” Exquisite guitar solo too. If you don’t feel five degrees cooler when you hear this song, check for a pulse.
7. Favorite Solo Album by Someone Who Previously Got Famous with a Band: Steely Dan front man Donald Fagen’s “The Night Fly.” (People who sell speakers for a living should be paying commissions for their use of this one).
8. Favorite Mostly-Unacknowledged Power Trio from Yesteryear: Triumph.
So, what does music do with you? Any favorite songs? Bands? Forgotten tunes? Memorable experiences with music? Let’s hear it.