Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Habit of Silence

Last week while I was at the Wild Goose Festival there was a lot of talk about music and musicians and the music scene in Nashville and other places. It was all way over my head as I had no idea who any of the bands or musicians were or whether I liked them or their style. Someone asked me what kind of music I like, and I realized I truly dread that question.

I didn't grow up with music, really. It was pretty quiet in my house. My parents never collected records or 8 tracks. They had a few cassettes of things like John Denver and Neil Diamond, but we rarely played them. Our stereo was an old tuner my dad had been making work for a long time; it didn't have a top, so you could see inside all the circuits and wires. When he turned it on, he played classical music. But it was rare, and I'm not sure I ever listened to an entire piece all the way through. I never developed a sense of composers or styles, I just knew it didn't catch me.

I loved music though--I sang all day long if I could. One of my jobs was taking out the trash all around the house, and I dragged my trash bag from room to room, singing every camp song I ever learned. I hadn't finished my repertoire by the time I got the bag out to the curb, so I would stand there and finish, loudly.

I sang in choirs and learned to play the piano, saxophone, recorder and bassoon. I've been longing to learn to play guitar a long time--I even have one and know how to tune it. I discovered top 40 in jr. high and celebrated when Madonna's "Crazy for You" was the number one song locally for 30 days in a row. People talked fervently about Duran Duran, but I only ever heard "View to a Kill." My knowledge of popular music is as shallow and unformed as my knowledge of sports (I don't have favorite teams either--thought the Cleveland Browns was baseball until a month ago).

I sang in a church praise band for years--and that's actually what finally got me to Sunday worship regularly. I can sit and listen to someone play acoustic guitar until the world ends.

It isn't that I never developed any taste for music--I have music. It's just I don't know how to answer when someone asks me what kind of music I like--there's a whole identity wrapped up in that answer, and I don't really mean to claim the identity when I say I like the music. If I say, for instance that I like Indigo Girls, there's often an assumption or expectation that I know others in the genre, and honestly, I just don't. And beyond that, I don't know the stories behind the musicians and the bands and the songs and the tours. It doesn't catch me like that.

I love music, but often have to remind myself to listen to it. I'll put it on in the car sometimes, but I'm just as likely to listen to silence for three hours and not feel like I'm missing anything.

Sometimes when the children are gone, and I have no house guests, and the cats are sleeping, and it's late at night, and the fans and the heater and the A/C are all off, I sit and listen to the silence that rings in my ears, and it is so beautiful and peaceful I could listen to that until the world ends. 

But I felt at Wild Goose, and have felt in other places, that I'm missing a vital connection to other people in my utter lack of music cred. And then again, there are a lot of ways I've been feeling disconnected this last decade, and I'd like to step back into community. But I do love the silence when I can find it.

(Wild Goose west is in Oregon over labor day weekend. You should go if you can.)


  1. I like silence, too.

    But, second to silence, probably Gungor or Alison Krauss.

  2. The question of what music I like always befuddles me because it changes almost daily and encompasses so much. One day, I might want nothing but Simon and Garfunkel or the Civil Wars on repeat, the next day I want to get my groove on with the Black Eyed Peas, and the next I want to relax to the sounds of Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff. I've also found this can be quite a loaded question, with too much judgement behind it. So (sometimes) I just give the copout answer and say, "I like everything."

    Despite this, there are still times when I desire silence so much that listening to anything becomes almost physically painful. Music is beautiful. Silence is, too.

  3. There is a joy in connecting with music when people are willing to share that music with you. Just walking up to someone and finding out you both love Alison Krauss, or Indigo Girls, or John Denver is a wonderful thing, but to sit and listen to it together, on a road trip, while doing a project/cleaning house, at a live concert (seriously, go see an Indigo Girls concert for a wonderfully fun experience), or just on a fun afternoon hanging out, that's where the true connection is. I love introducing folks to my eclectic blend of musical tastes (from bluegrass to celtic to folk to cajun and beyond our borders all around the world) and seeing them enjoy it just as if I were placing a new dish in front of them to taste or loaning them a book they wouldn't have thought to read otherwise.

    I must admit, I find seeking silence difficult...unless I'm out in the wilderness. Then it is a wonderful experience, but is that truly silence? There is so much to listen to!

  4. Even as a studied and practicing musician, I find myself in silence way more than listening to music. I never have it on in the house. I forget to put it on in the car. And I can go 50/50 when writing a sermon. Sometimes I'll put a Pandora station on, sometimes it's just me and the words/thoughts.


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