The Very Music of the Air

My husband’s parents are longtime travelers and music lovers. In addition to being their son’s chief cheerleaders and supporters in his musical career from the beginning, they have always enjoyed listening to all sorts of other music, particularly jazz, and in that, particularly big band and swing music. They love live music and have gone many times on road trips to various jazz festivals over the years, and Mom called this afternoon with an enthusiastic review of their just-completed trip down to the Newport Jazz Festival. They don’t do any of this by halves: it’s a serious pack up the car and leave home expedition for these two, in this case a drive from east of Seattle where they live on south down the Washington corridor to Astoria (just over the Oregon border) to meet a couple of good friends at a restaurant before they trek their last couple of hours down the coast to Newport, Oregon where they stay for the festival. They attend a number of concerts and events every time, and this time opted for the additional festival closing candlelight dinner with its own live music. And of course, being Mom and Dad, they also took a couple of side trips to see an old friend (possibly younger than they are) who doesn’t get around as much, and to go a bit farther down the coast for an extra stay in a seashore place they love. And the centerpiece of the trip is, on these expeditions, certainly still the music–they take such contagious joy in the variety of performers and styles and pieces and concerts they hear each time and, I think, are fueled by them with a bit of a new lease on life each time too. Music does do that to us, as I might have mentioned once or twice in these posts . . .

digital drawing imageI think of all the lives that have been changed by music–and the music-makers who have changed the lives of us listeners who get to experience it–and am astounded yet again by the potency of this communal experience. What would it be like to [shudder!] have a world with no composers, no violinists, no Dave Grusin, no African drummers, no klezmer bands, no Ray Charles, no Elly Ameling, no Chinese opera, no Eric Clapton, no mariachi, no Baroque oboists, no ZZ Top, no reggae, ska or zydeco music, no Ella Fitzgerald, no oud or sitar, no Jussi Björling? An unimaginably dark place, that world, if you ask me!digital drawing imageI’m always immensely pleased to hear Mom and Dad have had another marvelous time out exploring and savoring the countryside. Of course there’s the simple delight in knowing they’re happy. But besides that, through these adventures of theirs they keep up with an enormous cadre of family and friends all over the country, take interest in a mind-boggling range of cultural and historical sites and sights along the way, admire the breathtaking breadth of the American landscape and its ever-changing character, meet and adopt fascinating people everywhere they go, dine at whatever local favorite watering-hole captures their imaginations, and come home to tell the tale and renew our interests in such things–either over the phone or, if we’re lucky enough to all be in the same part of the country at the same time, over dinner.

So much of this started in part as a response to their love of music and the pull it has to bring them across this sprawling land. I think of the composers, music theoreticians, and other artists and philosophers worldwide and over the years who have posited a cosmic musical scale, heard music in the ambient overtones of the atmosphere in which we exist, and built art and ideas around that in ways the speak to the inherent musicality of our existence. It’s entirely possible to conceive of the existence of something that very literally attunes us to one another and to the universe in which we exist, that urges us irresistibly to live in harmony somehow.

digital drawing imageWhether there is some quantifiable and empirical way of knowing and understanding this, I as a non-musician and madly un-scientific person can’t tell you fully. What I do know is that there is something so inherently compelling in music that almost all of us are drawn to its power in one form or another. And that there is plenty of good reason for us to attempt harmonious living of whatever kind we can, and if there is no other way to achieve such things I think that in music might very well lie the key to doing so.

21 thoughts on “The Very Music of the Air

  1. Oh.. of course you know that I loved this post today. I am delighted by your parent’s travels, and hope that some day I can plan holidays just to hear and see my favorite performers. I think music should be the key… that’s such a beautiful metaphor, Kathryn, I don’t understand the science but it seems to be the underpinning to the harmony that is possible in our world for sure. My theory teacher taught me that sounds (when in tune) resonate along a wave-length.. if all instruments have accurate intonation as well and play simultaneously the wave swells and other notes resonate and the whole becomes so much larger than the sum of the parts. Whew, that was tough to explain and I’ve probably messed it up a bit.. your hubby would know how to explain this better:) xo Smidge

    • I’ve heard it explained numerous times and ways and still only vaguely comprehend the concept, but I certainly think I’ve *experienced* it a time or two, which negates the need for complete comprehension in my book. 🙂

      Music-driven travel *is* definitely one of the particularly great byproducts of marrying a musician! 🙂


  2. Ok, you TOTALLY confused me at first…
    “Newport Jazz? That’s in September…
    “Oh! The OTHER Newport!”
    I’ve lived on this Island for 16 years, and never braved the crowds to attend…kinda’ sad, really, but I just don’t “do” big venues anymore. I admire your in-laws’ fortitude.

    • Yes, I should know better, as a former resident of The OTHER Washington, than to talk about Newport Jazz without clarification! 🙂

      And I do understand the avoidance of mega-events!!

  3. I think it wonderful that your parents are spending so much time together, doing the things they love doing. In Music lies Harmony. Never really thought of it in that way but you make a good point. Someday, something will draw Mankind together and unite us like never before. I once thought Science might hold the key but I believe that less and less now. Religion never could and never will. Perhaps Music is the way. Yes, a very good point.

    • Yes, isn’t it fascinating that *religion*, of all things, is one of the most divisive forces among humans. But that’s a topic for interminable discussion, so for now I’ll stick with hoping that music, and a few equally potent arts like hospitality (mostly, in my mind, food-related) can save us if nothing else can. 🙂

      We are extremely fortunate, Richard and I, to have parents who still get so much joy out of their time spent together–both as couples and even as a foursome!

  4. Pingback: How not to Spend Your Bonus Day | kiwsparks

  5. I too am non-musical and I am as well un-musical – if there is such a word. By this I mean I cannot sing at all in tune but I am so in agreement with you about the compelling power of music. 😉

    • As with so many other arts, it’s a boon that there are great practitioners of it among us despite all those of us who *don’t* have the gift–and at the same time, a wonderful thing that there are plenty of us non-performers to love and support what the performers do and cheer them on in it!

  6. I’d love to be in your parents shoes attending festivals, we used to work on them, and the buzz and life that abounds in these places is magical. I imagine your parents getting that buzz.
    I particularly like the last illustration Kathryn, thank you.

  7. Some people think that music has such a universal impact on people (and yet manages to create such different reactions in individuals) because it’s actually the language closest to that of the soul. Just food for thought! (I’m doing a Philosophy project on Music and the Soul, and this is EXACTLY the sort of thing that made me want to do the project in the first place.) The connection people have to music is such a strange one– but I think it’s a fundamental one, and a fundamentally GOOD one at that.

      • It’s going to be really tough to stick purely to the philosophical aspects of it, instead of dragging psychology and biology in as well (I’ve already been berated for cross-referencing. Can you imagine!) but once it’s finished, I’d be glad to post it up~

  8. Wonderful reflection again, Kathryn! And what lovely adventurous and soulful parents you have. I am so in agreement,

    Music has certainly molded, melded and melted me into being!

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