Why Music?

I’ve never been big on the idea of music as something noble or lofty. Some of it may appeal to our better natures, but a lot of it is as filled with guilty pleasure as the extra helping of dessert you shouldn’t have eaten or the married woman you shouldn’t be flirting with. Our mythology is filled with stories about musicians who considered eternity in Hell a price worth paying for the chance to ply their trade on earth. For that matter, there are people who believe that music — all music — is the work of the Devil, and who’s to say they’re wrong? The reason I love Leonard Cohen’s ‘The Sisters of Mercy’ is its mixture of the sacred and the profane, the church and the brothel, and the way it forces us to realize that the two may not be quite as far removed from each other as we’d like to think.

I like a lot of different kinds of music. I’ve spent hours trying to master the intricacies of a Bach fugue on the keyboard and just as many trying to get down the tricky double thumbing technique on the banjo. I’ve played folk music in coffeehouses, rock in stadiums, classical music in auditoriums. There’s a certain feeling that all good music generates, regardless of whether it’s supposed to be good for you or society blesses it. I don’t have a word for that feeling, or for the quality in music that arouses it, but I‘ve gotten it from many different musical sources: from B.B. King as much as from Brahms, from the Temptations as much as from Tchaikowsky, from Dylan as much as from Debussy. There’s music I don’t have a lot of time for, but not because I think it’s evil or dangerous — it simply fails to move me as other music does.