Music learned by heart

For me, music gets right to my emotions – bypassing the intellectual logical bits – in a way that no other art form can, and in a surprisingly physical way. Sometimes this is amazing – the singer or the chord change that gives you goosebumps and makes you catch your breath – and sometimes less positive.

Music taps in to whatever is going on in my head and my heart. Having recently gone through a break-up, I lost a lot of music (I hope temporarily), in three different ways.

  • There’s the music that specifically reminded me of the two of us together and of what we’d shared – music we’d seen together, music we’d shared with each other, music that connected us in some way. It was too sad to be reminded of the connection I’d lost, so I can’t listen to any of that. Entire artists and even genres temporarily wiped out.
  • There’s the music with alarmingly apt lyrics that I’d somehow never noticed before. Stand up Joni Mitchell, Billy Bragg, etc; this is your moment. Just as when you fall in love, all the worst and sappiest love songs are all about you because no-one has ever loved like this before, when it all goes wrong then suddenly every song about a break-up becomes the most profound poetry ever created. Except it doesn’t leave you beaming happily to yourself; it unexpectedly reduces you to heaving messy sobs on the tube. And you can’t even console yourself with the fact that you’re so wonderfully sensitive that you’re being moved to tears by Great Art – some break-up songs happen to coincidentally be brilliant music, but many are total rubbish. But good or bad, any music that might sideswipe me with sadness, that’s definitely out.
  • And this one I still can’t fully explain. In the really stressful times, the really difficult and heartbroken bits, I lost the ability to listen to anything other than simplistic pop and mainstream dance. Anything else felt too complicated, too detailed, too emotional for my battered heart to deal with. Even complicated chord sequences were too much; seriously. So meaningless pop music it was. I knew I was beginning the journey back to normality when I started to seek out more complicated music again.

I grew up with music, I’ve worked in music, I write about music, I sing. Music is part of my understanding of the world. To lose it, even briefly and temporarily, feels like losing a sense. I lost the desire to sing, too, for a while. That was hard.

Nothing lasts forever. Good and bad. I’m beginning to emerge, buoyed by unending love and support, into the sunshine (incidentally, can we keep this sunshine for a while? It’s amazing) and deliberately hunting out new music, new songs to learn, new sounds to accompany me. I continue to be inexpressibly grateful for the amazing people in my life who love me and care for me (I’ve discovered anew the Rake’s possibly-infinite reserves of patience). And whatever happens, endlessly wonderful music will always sneak around the edges of whatever walls I try and build, and will welcome me back the instant I’m ready.


7 responses to “Music learned by heart

  1. When I’m feeling sad, I rediscover all the music I loved as a teenager and in my early 20s. I’m not sure if it’s because the songs have helped me through sad times once and so I’m hoping that they’ll do it again, or because I loved them back before I met any of the people I know now so they don’t bring back memories that are still raw. Either way, it helped.

    I’m glad you’re searching out complicated music once again. At least the existence of bland shitty pop music means that you didn’t have to go without any music at all. A bit like eating only soft food for a while when I first got braces on my teeth – I could handle the tricky stuff again after a while. And so can you.

    • I love the braces analogy. That is precisely it. I had to have *something* to keep me going, even if it wasn’t exactly nourishing or thrilling!

      And as for old music… I get that, too. For me, and perhaps for you, heartbreak can be so overwhelming that it’s very hard to see out from under it and remember that I won’t always feel like that; old music, old favourites, are like a touchstone – a reminder that you know for *certain* there was a time you were happy and complete without this person in your life, which proves that it’s possible, and so it makes the future feel a little more comforting. Music grabs your soul like nothing else, but music from long enough ago is like time travel – it takes you back to who you were then, and the certainty of happiness in the past is a reassurance of happiness in the future.

  2. Devil's avocado

    Plays, novels, and films, though rarely paintings and sculpture, can move me to tears. But there’s nothing like music of whatever genre to reach into your soul and wring it out. Keep a big space in your heart for the music; you know you have to.

  3. Music is my go-to for everything. It’s what transports me to moments and feelings of the past, memories, and can totally change my outlook in only a few minutes of song.

  4. Having just gone through a messy and painful breakup from someone I believed for a long time to be my soul mate, I really get where you’re coming from. Six months later, I still can’t (and don’t want to) listen to music that connected us, and it almost feels as though it’s been stolen from me. Music I loved, that now makes me cry, with sadness, anger, or just frustration at years that seem wasted. The upside is that I’ve discovered a lot of new music and I’m revisiting music from my teens and 20s (like Lori) that had surprised me by still being good, and giving me a more positive feeling of nostalgia and hope.
    Glad you have good support. Friends make all the difference in the end.

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