Thinking About Music

Music has always been a driving force in my life. My earliest memories of life are associated with 1950s and 1960s country music, thanks to my father. My mother’s tastes were a bit more contemporary for the times, as evidenced by my memories of Abba and Gilbert O’Sullivan. In my high school years, I was introduced to bands such as Van Halen and the Eagles. In the last two years of high school, I found the indie labels such as Megaforce and Metal Blade records, and my introduction to an extremely harder edge of metal music was started.

I drove a two-speed Honda Civic in those days. That vehicle was a lot like driving a golf cart that could get up to 80 miles and hour. I bought a tape deck and a pair of speakers. Nearly every single day, you could hear the sounds of bands like Mercyful Fate, Black ‘N Blue, 45 Grave, Hurricane, Tygers of Pan Tang, and Richard Hell playing from my little sardine-can car. It took a few more years before I was introduced to the Grateful Dead, and much of the 1960s and 1970s rock scenes, which I spend a lot more time in these days.

When I am at work, I have a small Bose speaker that looks like a cube. Usually, I have some kind of music coming from that little speaker – playing on my phone. Especially when I have a difficult piece of code to work on. Music relaxes me – physically, mentally, and even spiritually. Some days, I need a shot of fast-paced music to let my brain travel in ways that I normally don’t think. For that, I either have Motorhead or Eloy coming through the speaker. But, in my very conservative office area, the vocalization of Lemmy Kilmister are not exactly a welcome form of music, so I have a pair of bluetooth speakers I will move to for this.

Now, its likely been noticed that I haven’t listed any Pagan musicians as my go-to choices. I have a handful of these artists in my collection, but rarely do I play any of these in the workplace or when I am looking for something to help me focus and concentrate. I didn’t grow up with any of these artists, so my brain isn’t wired to those sounds the way it is with the music I have described above. When I am looking to concentrate and focus, not even my beloved Grateful Dead is a go-to choice.

Photo by John Beckett

I have been reamed over saying that before. Yes, there are some folks who believe it to be a level of blasphemy that Pagan artists are not at the top of my choices for constant music listening. My typical response is to shrug and walk away. I honestly do not need to have that shoved into my face. Music is an art form that is appreciated by the listener. While I dearly love the vocal stylings of several Pagan musicians, their music touches a different part of me than the music that I listened to back in high school. I pick up Pagan music when I am feeling down and need something that picks up my mood. Something that reminds me of who I am as a Druid, such as Damh the Bard’s “Green and Grey”.

Such attitudes, which I find off-putting at the very least, remind me of the Southern Baptist, Christian ministers who shot me dirty looks when I pulled into the church parking lot with Stryper or Ressurection Band or Jerusalem playing on my speakers. Those bands are all Christian hard rock or heavy metal bands. But because their dress style was similar to that of the hard rock and metal bands of that time (early to mid 1980s), they were judged as being “Satanic”. When I play these albums out and listen to them today, I hear musicians playing a style of music and finding ways to explain the message of their faith. While I am not a Christian, I can appreciate their desire to sing about something that deeply resonates within their being. I find that to hold true with Pagan musicians, as well.

Overt dogmatic practices quickly turn me off. Truth is found in the individual and the manner in which they connect to the world around them. Music is one of the purest ways to relay this. When I hear Pagans tell me that Pagan artists should be at the top of my personal playlist, all I hear is the same tone I heard from Southern Baptist ministers who condemned Christian artists that accessed a style of music to relay their messages of how Christianity brought them hope and comfort in a confusing world.

As I noted overt dogmatic preaching of the Christian faith really turns me off. But nothing makes me feel more ill than a dogmatic Pagan trying to convert the masses to Paganism of one form or another. I have always viewed the Pagan Path as one where adherents come willing, seeking out of curiosity or a desire to find something that fits their understanding of the connectivity of the world. I certainly don’t want to see people come to the Path of Paganism out of fear of what will happen to their soul in the after-life (one of the few concepts that you will ever hear me bash Christianity over).

Before I step off the trail of this post and head down a rabbit hole I did not intend to go, let me pull this back together. Music means a lot of things to me. Its the background of my day. Certain music touches my soul in certain ways. But regardless of all of that, music is an ecstatic piece of freedom contained within the storytelling mode. The lyrics provide wonderful stories combined with musical aspects for punctuating. Done well, those stories stay with us forever. How many of you can “Witchy Woman” with the Eagles when you hear it on the radio? How many of you can sing the lyrics by memory? Think about that for a moment. Those lyrics are memorized and a part of your unconscious thoughts, and that story is easily recalled when you hear the first strains of guitar in the song.

Music is a part of us, provided by very talented people. They have a message or story that they are trying to tell you. Some delivery methods do not lend themselves to being well received by the listener. For instance, I do not like rap music. Nothing presented to me in that format is memorable for me. For others, its quite a different story. The same can hold true for Acid Jazz, a music form that evokes strong emotions for me, but can be described as “noise” by others.

So, crank up your speakers, put something on that brings you joy. Don’t worry about what others might say. The music is for you. Its there to calm your soul. Its there to place you into a particular frame of mind. And who cares whether its something associated with your Spirituality or not. This is about you, your emotions, the way you feel…that’s what matters.

One thought on “Thinking About Music

  1. To me, music is optional in private or personal ritual, but very important in public or group ritual. It pulls group members together in a way little else does, creating a shared spirit.

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