Music has always been a very important part of my life. I started taking piano lessons in second grade, but started playing by ear before then (not like I was some Mozart, just that at an early age I had a connection). By junior high I was good enough to begin expressing myself with music, not just playing what was on the page but finding the emotion in the piece and within myself. In high school, playing the piano became more therapy than anything, though I practiced for lessons and accompanied school choirs and so forth. I sang in choirs from junior high partway through college, but have never fully connected my emotional self to the act of singing – it feels somehow much more vulnerable, I think, than when I play the piano, even though in truth I express so much more of myself when I’m sitting at one that I am most open and my truest self sitting on a piano bench. I didn’t get to play that much in college, and started learning the guitar. I’ve definitely gotten better over the years at the guitar, but I don’t fully connect with it most of the time.
When I was interviewing for jobs at the end of my senior year of college, I made sure no one knew that I had musical talents. I really wanted to get the job for my other skills and vision and gifts, and then the church could be pleasantly surprised later on down the road. When I moved to Michigan, I did keep it a bit of a secret, but my office was right off the sanctuary (literally) and the grand piano was maybe 15 feet from my desk, and I didn’t stay away long. At first I would only play when I knew I was the only person in the building, but as people slowly learned that I could play and I began to share that, it quickly became public knowledge, and it was OK. I joined the praise band, and then when both the organist and pianist quit, I filled in for the next 11 months as the pianist. I loved most of all playing the offertory, since that was the place I got to express myself the most, and I learned some pretty awesome arrangements of great worship pieces. I also played certain pieces just for special friends, like when D&C had their last Sunday and I made sure to play C’s favorite (or was it W’s favorite?).
Since I’ve moved to Minnesota, I’ve played much less. I had access at both of the churches I worked at, but didn’t get to take advantage very much. And now that I’m not at a church at all, I don’t have any access to a piano. My guitar has filled in well, but doesn’t really compare in the way my soul is moved. The piano I own (or that is known to be mine) lives in Illinois at ‘s house. It’s 100 years old and belonged to ‘s mom (the one who died a month before I was born). It’s what’s known as an upright grand, and it’s the one I learned on and continue to have the best relationship with. It’s a very special piano – it never needs to be tuned. Sometime in high school we had some pads replaced, but basically that’s all the repair it’s needed in my 27 years. I wish that I could have it with me, but there are far too many complications. Pianos aren’t meant for apartment-living, and due to its age I’d have to pay people to move it for me and be very careful, and just getting it to Minnesota would be difficult (and probably expensive).
I originally started this post to talk about songs that move me, ones that I listen to, not ones that I perform. There are certain songs that make me stop in my tracks, that transcend my soul to another level. There are ones that make me speechless. There are ones I can’t help but sing along to (and occasionally dance to, though that is reserved for times when I know no one will see me). Sometimes I understand what it is about a song that moves me, but some of them completely baffle me. I get why “Wonderful, Merciful Savior” by Selah makes me pause; it’s such a spiritual experience to just listen to that song. “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks reminds me of my first big adventure; I listened to it on the plane out to San Francisco, and I was terrified that I had made a big mistake and wasn’t feeling up to the challenge and it calmed me down and reminded me that adventures are good and fun. “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera helps me walk talker and feel more confident, reminding me that the crap I’ve had to deal with and the stuff others put in my way just makes me a stronger person.
The one that currently is moving me is “Brass Bed” by Josh Gracin (see yesterday’s post for a copy of the song). But I don’t understand exactly why. Musically it’s fantastic; it’s got this great bass line played by a cello, I think, that I didn’t pick up until I was listening to it on my pda – it’s virtually undetectable in the music video (which is where I first heard the song). The singer isn’t all that gorgeous (not that he’s bad-looking). He has a good voice (but not one that would instantly make me rip off all my clothes). The words are good, but not entirely kosher with what I believe. Somehow though, when all the pieces get added up, the sum is definitely more than the parts, and I am taken away. It’s been in my head for days, and I keep playing it over my headphones every once in a while to get my fix.
What songs move you?