What Music Does to Me

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This is just a quick thought about the science and mystery of music and what music really does to us. What music really is.

Music is vibrations. If you knew that, great, or if you didn’t, take a second and think about that and get ready for the rest of what I’m about to say. Don’t read these words for a minute.

We are vibrations. We are each, as everything is, a swirling galaxy of electrons and neutrons and protons and French fries. Every piece sparking off the signals of the one next door, flying around until it conks into the next.

Imagine you are running through the forest of concrete columns under an interstate interchange. Like spaghetti junction in Atlanta if you’ve been there. Or where I-5 meets I-15 in Fontana, CA. All the cars are zooming around: over, under, through, this one’s passing that one on the outside and then zipping over and taking the next exit on the left. It’s all very complicated and there’s a lot going on, but really, there’s a lot of space between. You could build a football stadium in the space between. That’s what the inside of your body looks like on an atomic level. And the only thing keeping it all together is the jostling itself. This little neutron can’t go that way until that little proton goes over there and collides with that electron and makes some room for Arthur Dent.

This is vibration. This is you. This is music.

Music is caused when vibrations reach a certain level of intensity and create a pitch. A pitch is what you call a note. Hit a key on the piano and that’s a note, but it’s got a specific pitch vibrating at a certain wavelength. We have the advantage of thousands of years worth of trial and error to figure most of this out for us, like what the wavelength of middle C is and why it’s middle C at all and not first, second, or third C. This has all been determined, thankfully. What’s left to you and me is how these notes make us feel. What does middle C feel like? And the C above? Is there a tune that you feel in the pit of your stomach?

I love to walk up to piano and hint middle C. Really bang it. It makes me feel rooted. Like, OK great! There’s my good buddy middle C again! Middle C feels good in my bones. I like G, and D and B Flat, but F is my favorite part of the middle C family. You have to hit the C first, to kind of announce the arrival of F. That’s not a value judgment, that’s just me. I like F because, as the four chord of the key of C, it’s always going somewhere else. I like the process of going somewhere else. That’s what F does to me. I don’t get the same kick out of A as the four chord for E. F is my personal wavelength.

Fortunately I became familiar with it back in high school physics and trigonometry, so it’s an old friend now.

I believe music is the good vibrations that heal parts of us we don’t understand yet. And God forbid we ever do. We aren’t supposed to know everything. The desire and need to know everything is the greatest insecurity one can have.

Music will put parts of you back in touch with other parts. It’s the only ethereal glue.

We vibrate. Music vibrates. There’s the space between vibrating in response. The closer you get to the music, the more it affects you. If you’ve ever wondered about Keith Richards and Johnny Cash and Steven Tyler and how they’ve lived such long lives considering the poisons they consumed, I believe the answer is in their proximity to, and quantity and quality of, their music. If your music makes you feel good, it’s not just because it’s telling you it’s ok to party on the pontoon as long as you don’t drink lukewarm beer. The music itself is doing something to you on a cellular level.

So choose your music well.

Neil Dover on couch with Tami Taylor

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