Friday, March 28, 2008

Mysterious Ways

For months now, I had thought that my laptop's DVD player was outputting abnormally low volume. DVDs were faint, even with the volume turned all the way up - and when you do the bulk of your DVD watching on a train, that's trouble, my friends. Then, just a few days ago, I started to notice it on my iPod as well. Finally that very dim light bulb above my head flickered, and I realized that it might be my headphones. I dug up a pair of old earbuds, and viola! I could hear!

So, two days ago, I was on the PATH train heading into Hoboken. I had the iPod on my 5-star musical theater song playlist and was reading Death Star. And I wasn't really paying attention to the music. Then, "Next," from the English National Opera's production of Sondheim's Pacific Overtures came on. I noted the song, and how much I love it, and continued reading.

When we got to Hoboken, I put the book away and headed towards the stairs. And as my consciousness started to register the music more, I found myself smiling at the song. And I grabbed the iPod to boost the volume all the way up - which was now, remember, actually loud. And the big drums section of the song kicked in.

Now I was walking with hundreds of commuters. And the song was divorced, not just from the play, but from the rest of the score. And yet, as those awesomely loud drums pounded away, and as those awesomely loud horns blared, I found myself blinking away tears. "Next" is not a sad song. It is the finale of the musical, with the story being about the opening up of Japan. And in this song, the all-male chorus sings of how quickly Japan will rise to become a world power, and how quickly they will modernize. It's a song full of ironic portent, and excited fury. But it's not sad. And yet the sheer power of Sondheim's music, its sheer boundless energy, can move me to tears. And that amazes me. It amazes me sometime to realize the primal power that music can hold. After all, it's not as if I know why the song works on me the way it does. I just know it does. And it's part of what makes music so important for me. As an atheist, I don't feel a connection to something bigger than I in church, or in prayer. But in music? I do.

Until Whenever

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