I saw a joke the other day that said “Never underestimate the therapeutic power of driving fast with music playing really loud.” That brought a chuckle, but it also reminded me of all the times the simple joy of rolling down the windows and turning the stereo up has lightened my mood. Of course, I never exceeded the speed limit…
Last week, as part of the Creators Program at the WVSU Economic Development Center on Charleston’s West Side, Larry Groce, host and artistic director for the West Virginia Public Radio show Mountain Stage, talked about the power music has to touch us.
“On their deathbed, no one wants to hear a sermon. They want to hear a hymn. Music speaks to us on a different level,” he said. “Nothing evokes as much emotion in three to five minutes as music. It is poetry and music combined. A song does something that takes a long time to explain in a linear fashion in a novel; rhythm, chords, and words.”
As a writer, I want to argue the point, but I really can’t. Groce played a series of songs that he identified as personal favorites. He admitted that if you asked anyone to pick their own songs, they would of course be different. His tastes tend to run toward folk music, for example, but he said he was sure if someone preferred rap or rock they could do the same thing.
Groce stood at the front of the room as he played the songs he wanted to share, transported with his eyes closed gently swaying to the sound. He played Chocktaw Bingo by James McMurtry (that was admittedly longer than most at around eight minutes) and in it the singer created characters and told the story of an extremely dysfunctional family reunion that I’m sure most of us can identify with. To write the same book, you would have to use hundreds of pages to achieve the same depth.
Some of the songs Groce played represented “the big picture” or injustices of one kind or another. He even played examples of music that made a point while making you laugh. “These are topics that would be tough to discuss in a straight up fashion, but in a song you can do it. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a song is worth a thousand pictures,” Groce said.
I’ve always appreciated music, and the power it has. I’ve always known music could make me happy or sooth hurts. I never thought, though, about the power it has to convince or communicate.
Song writers have it so easy…(tongue firmly in cheek).