The effect that music has

Music has always played a large role in my life. My mom jokes that before I could talk, I could spell thanks to the 70s hit “Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers – “S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y… NIGHT!”

I bonded with my babysitters over Beatles records. My wife is a musician, and her long blonde hair reminds me of my first memory of music. (Readers be warned: This will sound like I am ripping off Paul Simon lyrics.  But this is actually my memory.)

I was in my crib. “It was late in the evening. There was a radio coming from the room next door” and I heard my mom laughing. “I couldn’t have been no more than 1 or 2…” as the song goes.

I remember wanting to be at the party in the other room and I must have tried to say so, because a lady with long, blonde hair came into my room and picked me up.

I have loved music and women with long, blonde hair ever since. I have a huge music collection and go to many shows where thousands like me line up to be part of the excitement.

From King David to the longhaired kids stocking the shelves at FYE, why do people find music so intoxicating?

In a phone interview May Pang, ex-girlfriend of John Lennon, said she thinks music’s appeal is that “it’s universal.” One listen to the Beatles as a kid, and Pang, too, was hooked.

After hearing the Beatles on the radio, “I wanted to be involved in music,” she said. She was such a fan that she took a job at Apple Corp. in Manhattan just because it was the Beatles’ company. As music buffs know, she became very close to Lennon in the early 70s.

During their time together Lennon wrote “Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox)” and “#9 Dream” for Pang. She saw firsthand how much of a music fan Lennon was. She tells of the excitement in his face when song ideas came to him. He’d rush for a pad and pen to preserve the ideas, and he reacted the same way to songs on the radio. The way music touched her soul as a kid was the same way that it touched Lennon’s soul.

The effect of music on a soul seems like an intangible. But the results of music are easy to see. The vibrations emanating from instruments may be invisible, but watch the bystanders. Pitches in harmony with one another make a kid smile and sing, while discord is quick to bring a frown.

Even more than an intangible with a measurable effect, music is beauty, beauty that motivates people to rise to the occasion as they tap a foot or sing along to show that they can also be part of the magic.

A song’s rhythm has its own flow of time that, for its duration, allows people to forget about time – even the most aggressive multitasker doesn’t listen to songs on fast forward to get to the end quicker. That is because the point of music is to enjoy the passing of time for what it is. It is movement for its own sake.

Lastly, music makes life viewable from a distance and good songwriters let people know that they are not alone. Leading rock biographer Mark Bego notes that certain artists, like Joni Mitchell, excel at this.

As Mitchell’s “For Free,” a song about Mitchell watching a street musician, spins in my CD player, I can only imagine that music charms her in the same way.


About genemyers

Gene Myers is a New Jersey poet, music journalist and columnist who learned to walk twice. His weekly column is called The Joy of Life. He was awarded first place in Arts and Entertainment Writing by The New Jersey Press Association.
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8 Responses to The effect that music has

  1. mj says:

    Hey I babysat you when you were 1 or 2. Maybe that was me?

  2. Lucy says:

    uh – John did not write #9 dream FOR May, he wrote it when he was with her during the Lost Weekend

  3. Lucy says:

    so she is changing her story yet AGAIN?

    In many many interviews all over the internet, on her blog, her books and even her own website she states that John wrote Surprise FOR her, but that #9 Dream came to John in a dream, that he did not know what it was about, etc. May DOES say that is is SHE, not Yoko who sings the backup vocals on #9 dream. She has never said or put in print anywhere that John wrote #9 Dream for her. If she said that to you then I suggest you ask her for clarification as many of her followers will want to know.

  4. Thanks for your article. I recently watched the thought-provoking movie, The Music Never Stopped, then soaked up some documentaries such as Music and Science. Amazing! Yet not surprising, considering how music has usually comforted babies and even calmed King Saul. I’d heard that music can change a mood in minutes or less, and as a poet, I can see (hear) how the tone and tempo of poems can also have a quietening or disturbing effect. As I revise my poems and critique or edit poetry from other poets, I read each version aloud and listen, listen for the mood and musicality.

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