Music moves us. Whether it be to make us happy, sad, or (in some rare cases) violent, music affects our emotions. The authors of the Write Room have shared their thoughts and feelings about music and how it shapes our lives (Dellani Oakes)
The Music of Life By Micki Peluso
Music is ingrained in our lives from the melodic chirping of birdsong to lullabies crooned to sleepy toddlers. We celebrate with music, we mourn with music. Even some dogs like to sing; or maybe they just howl to get us to stop. My house was always filled with music, especially when five of my six kids were teenagers. It was the late 70s but we all loved to sing songs from the 60s as well; Elvis Presley was an icon in our home.
My oldest daughter Kim played guitar and wrote songs, and her sisters and I sang along, sometimes taping ourselves on cassettes with a little red recorder. We all cried while singing Teen Angel, but couldn’t stop singing it. That song would prove an omen of the day when we would have our own Teen Angel.
Dante could play any instrument and song by ear, even classical music like Beethoven and Bach — Where did he hear that? Kelly sang in the school choir and Noelle played the trumpet in the band. The rest of us were not musically talented but I did know if a note was flat. I taught myself to play the guitar years before but when I could go no further I taught Kim, who was six years old at the time. She quickly surpassed me.
I did love to sing, albeit off key, and sang Baptist spirituals and folk songs like I Gave My Love a Cherry, and my favorite country-western songs. I could do a fair Love Me Tender, or so I thought. Noelle burst in from school one day to show me her new trumpet by blasting me with a few earsplitting notes. “Can you play, Long, Long Ago, Far, Far Away?” I asked. When the joke finally the hit her, she just laughed. Thankfully we had an acre of land and no close neighbors – although I thought I heard the dairy cows from the nearby barn mooing backup up one day.
On a sunny late summer day, 14-year-old Noelle was singing and dancing down our country lane, on her way to a concert at the nearby park with her girl friend. I knew she was meeting her first puppy love, a cute, blue-eyed, shaggy haired boy named Chuck. Within moments, a drunk driver struck her and left her face down on the side of the road. That day the music died – except for the mournful dirge of the church organ on the day of her funeral.
It was a few months later when her younger sister, Nicole’s, 11th birthday was coming up. I had to convince her to have her party at the Roller Skating Rank where the girls had spent so many good times skating to the hit tunes and a few oldies. She felt guilty but agreed to go. As she and her friends ate pizza and drank soda, I turned to gaze at the skating rink. For a few brief moments I saw Noelle, dancing on skates smiling and full of life. I was mesmerized. I blinked, and the vision was gone, but I heard a line from the stereo playing the song, American Pie, by Don McLean . . . “The Day the Music Died.”
Joy of the Blues by Bryan Murphy
I fell in love with blues music as a teenager. For a provincial Brit, it was irresistible; exotic, foreign but accessible, and hypnotic. It has proved to be an enduring love. Blues music would make an ideal soundtrack to my science fiction writing, because it is dark, like the futures I project. But my poem below is celebratory, more suited to a rare piece of joyful blues: Rock Me Mama by the ultimate blues pianist, Otis Spann.
Joy of the Blues
On holiday from a theatre of war,
wandering around the retirement town
where I’d tried to grow up,
I ran into well-groomed, greying men
last seen snarling
in playground brawls.
“You still got all them blues records?”
Sunshine, I bloodied your knuckles on my nose,
seduced your sweet sister, and you remember me
for my blues collection?
“You bet: Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker,
Otis Spann, Howlin’ Wolf, …”
that other Americana beyond the dream:
bitter with authenticity, on the periphery
of our consciousness, offering
the human experience in twelve bars,
on the rack, stretched to limits,
infinite variation on finite themes,
like language, soccer, life. Blues
transcended the conventions it endorsed,
seeded my malleable mind with a conviction
that cultural barriers are there to overcome,
so that the Sirens of this world’s uneasy zones
will always outbid the muzak of too-sweet home.
You can find Otis Spann on YouTube, and Bryan Murphy’s e-books here: viewAuthor.at/BryMu
Music: Releases Stress by Fran Lewis
Music has always been an integral part of my life from the age of seven. Loving the sound of the ivories on the piano and wanting to play on a real piano my mom allowed me to have lessons but I practiced on a paper keyboard. She wanted to make sure that I really wanted the lessons and that I had a true passion for the piano. Within six months the instructor told her she should definitely buy me a piano and my grandfather did. School, even at seven years old, was demanding since my mom required that I do my homework as soon as I came home, studied for tests and then, of course, had dinner. But in between, I would practice my scales and prepare my piano pieces for my lessons. Just sitting in front of the piano and playing relaxed me and all of the tension from the day vanished, and I was in another world filled with the sound of the music. Whether it was a Chopin Waltz, or a Beethoven Concerto or a Sonata, I immersed myself in the piece and could feel myself one and the same with the music.
Music was my major in college and learning to transpose pieces into different keys was a real challenge, yet it was one that I loved. Majoring in music also required that you learn another instrument–mine was the violin. So, along with the piano at age 10, I took on the violin, became concertmistress in the ninth grade and played first violin throughout high school. I even played in the borough orchestra.
Music has, and always will be, a great part of my life. To this day, when I feel overwhelmed, know that I have to visit the dentist one more time or must handle any other type of crisis, I sit down, put on the earphones and listen to the Three Tenors, a classical piece of music, or the first piece that I ever played in Carnegie Hall: The Waltz of the Flowers.
Educator, author, magazine publisher and book reviewer Fran Lewis has had a career that celebrates the written word, but she has also had a life filled with the pleasure of music. http://www.amazon.com/Fran-Lewis/e/B002F8Z87U
Christmas Carols and Being Gay are Related. I Promise by Cody Wagner
I recently joined a singing group that performs around Phoenix during the holidays. We had orientation Tuesday and were given 50+ carols to memorize AND choreography to study AND handbells to… well, I don’t know what the frick to do with handbells yet.
With all that stuff to learn, we were told to begin practicing right away. Consequently, I walked around the house all day singing “Jingle Bell Rock”. And maybe around Safeway. And possibly Chipotle.
Please note it’s early September. We haven’t even reached Halloween season yet. Yet there I was humming “Dancin’ and prancin’ in Jingle Bell Square!” down the aisles at Wal Mart. Oh yeah, I practiced at Wal Mart, too.
Let me just say I received some judgmental looks. I fully expect to make that “People of Wal Mart” website with the caption “This guy is wearing a ‘Mom, Dad, I’m Gaelic’ t-shirt and singing ‘Fum! Fum! Fum!’ during Summer”.
When I received a particularly nasty look from a mother who covered her child’s eyes, I admit I got embarrassed. Believe it or not, that embarrassment was sparked by memories of growing up gay in a little redneck town. OK OK, Christmas carols in summer and being gay may seem like the most unrelated things ever, but wait for it.
I wasn’t the gay kid who hated himself. Somehow, I knew being gay wasn’t wrong, although everyone around me said homosexuals were evil. I had this little seed of self-confidence I’m eternally grateful for. With that said, I was still in the closet. Big time. While I was OK with myself, I knew people around me weren’t. They had this thing in their heads that straight people were the norm and anyone outside that circle was a weirdo.
I bet you a plate of delicious Pad Thai that the mom who shielded her kid’s eyes thought, People sing carols from Thanksgiving to New Years. Anyone outside that circle is a weirdo.
Look how I brought it all together. Cody – 1, Not Cody – 0.
That feeling of not being evil yet not fitting in has always been a part of my life. It’s also an integral part of my new book as well. I worked to infuse that element into the protagonist. I wanted him to fight, to remain secure, while being bombarded from outside forces. Especially when he gets sent to a pray-away-the-gay school (DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN!).
And my experience with public music brought those old conflicted feelings out in me, which made me feel even more connected with my character. Funny how that happens.
Part of me ultimately wants my protagonist to stand up for himself. But for him to rise up, I felt I had to do the same. So when that mother’s glare burned into me, I actually straightened, looked her in the eye, and sang, “Here I come a caroling, among the cans of peas!”
It was the lamest verse ever, but my protagonist will be better off for it.
Cody Wagner writes about things he questions, ranging from superpowers to sociopathic kids. His debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, will be out October 27th, 2015. Check out his writing updates and read more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or follow him on Twitter @cfjwagner.