Monday, February 26, 2007

Esperanto? Give Me Music

"Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without." - Confucius

Anybody who knows me well knows that music is an important part of my life. From the time I was four until I was eighteen, I rarely missed playing the piano for several hours every day. Starting in fourth grade, I also started regularly singing in school plays and choir. In high school, I combined my talents by singing in, and playing for, the school choir. In college I also participated in school choirs. My involvement in school choirs only ended after my first year of graduate school, when I realized that it was just too much to be a Ph.D. student and a regular member of the choir. However, this hasn't stopped me from singing in the shower!

Music still has immense restorative power for me. As long as I can remember, it's been the outlet with which I release emotion. The most notable example of this was the "Phantom of the Opera Phase," in which I would periodically bang out my teenage angst on the poor, innocent piano. As I type this I am listening to iTunes on random. In the last half hour I've heard Aimee Mann, the Indigo Girls, U2, David Grey, Radio Head, REM, and Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers (thanks to my friend, Julie, for introducing me to them) have just come on. After a hard day in class (I had to give exams back), this is JUST what I needed to sooth my nerves.

Recently, I enjoyed watching another group of people enjoying music. My fiancee and I attended a beautiful wedding last Friday. This wedding was unique, in that the groom is American and the bride Belgian. This meant that many of the guests couldn't communicate with each other verbally (or at least couldn't communicate very well). In the early part of the evening, there were scattered groups of people all speaking the same language. But then the DJ switched from jazz to pop.

All of a sudden, everybody, regardless of nationality was gyrating to the music on the dance floor. Young and old, American and Belgian, geek and non-geek. This didn't surprise me that much. However, I was quite amused to see the Europeans singing along to old favorites like "Livin' on a Prayer," and (even stranger) the themesong from the old show "The Jeffersons," "Movin' on Up."

In my most cynical moments, I would bemoan the prevalence of globalization transporting American culture all over this world. But that would be the sociologist talking. The girl in love with music can only smile at the joy they were all having from the collective experience of the music, with every shouted word, and every twirl on the dance floor. As Longfellow said, "Music is the universal language of mankind."

I'll take music any day.

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