The music found me. It fingered my nerves like ivories, hammers on the strings pulling my toes up and down. All the way up the music moved — my head side to side, my heart a beat faster.
I was driving all the way to Maine, up the coast past Bath to Bar Harbor. The sun shined and all along the way crows, gulls, and vultures soared above me. Maybe they heard the music too.
You know the kind of drive I mean. A long one. You want to stop but you don’t want to make the drive any longer than it has to be, and so you keep on keeping on. Coffee after coffee but still you start to flag until the music finds you.
Gone are the days of turning the dial until you find a song you want, no sir. If you have a smart phone you have thousands of songs segregated into playlists for every mood. Besides the default “Top 25 Most Played” some of my titles are: “Cleaning” (accompaniment for mopping the floor), “Easy” (not for driving), “Good One” (just the best), “Workout” (vigorous), and “Happy Listening” (goofy). There are a few more serious ones like, “Taize” and “Classical,” but not for the drive I was on.
Some people don’t listen to music. I don’t get it. My parents rarely listened to music. They had a nice record player and quite a few albums, almost all classical. But the only record I remember hearing while growing up — that wasn’t being played by my sisters and me in our rooms — was a Christmas carol album on which the wax was bright red instead of black. But music is so much more accessible today since they removed the middle man, the disc-jockey, and delivered to us (at a price) whatever we want to hear directly.
For me, an ironic gift of the pandemic has been recording worship videos every week, which means I get a private piano concert as the tech-person recording it. Lisa Gibson, who plays a mean grand, and I brainstorm crazy mashups that shouldn’t work but do. Thanks to creative improvisation we find traditional church hymns that bleed into popular music — Beethoven and the Beatles, Neal Young and Charles Wesley, 10,000 Maniacs and Isaac Watts, etc. The music finds us.
When I was in seminary I did my fieldwork at Emmanuel Church on Newbury Street in Boston. It was the only church at the time to have performed the full cycle of Bach Cantatas, one Sunday at a time. The preacher declared more than once, that theological language was dead and music the only language of faith. I doubt he had heard some of the music I’ve heard, but I knew what he was saying. In Buffalo my church had a Sunday night jazz worship in its chapel, the piano and sax reverberating as if angels breathing down on us the echoes of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. The music found us.
So I totally understand complaints about Christmas Music on a loop, yammering at us over and over and over again from the radio and store speakers. If I have to hear Alvin and Chipmunks even once I might go into a holiday depression. But when I hear Greensleeves or The First Noel, wherever I am, the music finds me.