I admit it, I can think of several musicians that I have fallen in love with, though it’s not quite as you might imagine. More than just enjoying their music, I felt all the symptoms of being in love. It was thrilling to be near them when they were playing. I felt the warmth of their music long after hearing it. The odd part is, these particular people were pretty much just acquaintances or casual friends; we didn’t know much about each other outside of the music. Is there such a thing as falling in love with someone’s musical soul?
Has this happened to you? Not just liking a musician or a band or meaningful lyrics, but feeling deeply moved by what you hear? If not, keeping listening, it will come your way if you keep your ears, and your own musical soul, open!
I can only offer a few clues about this phenomenon. One of them comes from a moment that astonished me. We were in a very large room full of people playing music in the center, with watchers, listeners, chatters, and social drinkers around the outside. I was playing with this particular person I loved playing with, and, just the way you might suddenly notice static on the radio or a phone call, or distortion in a speaker, I suddenly noticed that everybody was not in sync. This is not terribly unusual in a session. The best moments in a session or band are when everyone is in sync, or in the groove. The worst are when one or more players are persistently off-time. Most sessions fall somewhere in between. In this particular session I noticed a slight disconnect and stopped playing for a moment to take stock of what was happening. There was a variety of players, including some good ones. It struck me in that moment that the player whose music I loved so much was stomping her foot precisely the same as I was, and nobody else exactly matched. (Another article will explore questions about what a beat is and where it’s to be found!)
Perhaps this is one answer to the question of a musical soul: Timing. Perfect notes, beautiful tone, or fast speeds, may be impressive and deserve respect for the accomplishment. But it’s a musician’s sense of timing that has the capacity to move us. This will certainly ring a bell for my students and readers of this blog. I often make clear that the top priority, from day one, is to establish a good sense of the beat and how to make the most of it. But what I haven’t revealed is that falling in love might be the end result!
There is one other speculation I’d like to throw into the mix. I recently heard a favorite musician of mine playing a beautiful tune in a very silly situation and yet it still moved me. Why? What was it? Timing? Yes. But there’s something too about the way she drew us along, growing her sound in meaningful ways during a phrase and from phrase to phrase. Very hard to put into words, but I think maybe it just boils down to the fact that some musicians put themselves into their music, and more than that, they put love into it, and that’s what comes out.
On a more mundane daily level, this calls up one of the five sayings from a previous article, intended to help you practice. #4 is “It’s not about how many minutes you put in, but how much you care.” At any level, that’s the difference between a learner and a performer.
Valentine’s Day may have come and gone but remember, you can fall in love any time, and in many ways.
©2020 Ed Pearlman