Gratitude Challenge – #12 Music

The Gratitude Challenge’s twelfth topic is “Music”.

Now, there are probably not many people who would not feel grateful for the gift that music is. Yet I sometimes feel that music has a stronger influence on my emotions and my whole body than on others – during a sound-healing session my whole body started shaking while others seemed to remain untouched and for a long time I needed to stop listening to “sad” music: I found it so beautiful but then it also made me melancholic to an extent that I was unable to get on with whatever I had planned to do. Concepts and research on mind-influencing sounds such as binaural beats and Schumann resonances are also something that I find very worth to have a look at, because apparently everything around us that we hear can have a direct influence on our mind.

I also cannot understand how people happily listen to music via their phone speakers or cheap earphones – it makes me want to cry when I hear a wonderful song bare and dishonoured from something that kills any bass or treble, any variance or dynamics – why would you do that?

My grandfather was a conductor, his father a dance instructor. Music seems to flow through the family so to say. Even though I try to meditate for at least 20 minutes each day and to live more in the present moment, it is the times when I’m making music that I’m really just enjoying the moment, cocreating beautiful sounds with others and not thinking of anything else, just going with the flow.

I started to make music at the age of four when I went to a musical early education class. At the age of six I started to play the drums and I continued to take weekly classes for the next 13 years. I still remember the first real song that I played on the drums and even almost 30 years later I kind of remember the fills:

Metallica – Nothing Else Matters

After I moved out from my parents’ home I stopped playing altogether and for another 13 years I didn’t touch an instrument. It was only last year that I felt inspired to make music again, starting with percussion, then drums, and now maybe venturing into learning the piano. While the drums help me to regain balance, the piano puts me into a very calm and pensive mood – at least that was the case during the times I amateurishly hit the keys of my parents’ piano as a child.

I find it fascinating how different musical genres create completely different sensations in us, calm us down or make us move. There are not many types of music that I truly dislike and even then, I try to appreciate their existence and the creative energy that someone put into making it. This being said, most of my time as a drummer I played jazz or rock and I still enjoy these, I just can’t really listen to jazz as a background music as apparently many people do, because I get so focused on the music and on what’s happening, and I cannot multitask meanwhile. I also really enjoy hip hop music, but for a drummer it can be a slightly monotonous engagement.

While it is obvious how our ears are primary receptors for music, it is so interesting how in fact our whole body receives and processes music. The TED talk “How to truly listen” by deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie explains this very well. While she certainly has perfected the art of hearing with the whole body, I am convinced that everyone of us in fact feels the music to a certain extend this way. Also, when we play an instrument, the texture of the different parts of the instrument and the resonance and rebound that follow our energy form an important part of the whole dynamic of a musical experience. You can watch Evelyn’s TED talk here:

When it comes to specific songs, there is an endless number of songs that accompanied me during different stages of my life. Some songs that immediately and reliably bring up certain memories are:

Emil Bulls – Friday Night
Israel Kamakawiwoʻole – Somewhere over the rainbow
Trevor Hall – The Lime Tree
Re:Buddha(Kanho Yakushiji × Gyosen Asakura) – Heart Sutra
Massive Attack – Teardrop

When it comes to classical music, I do not know much but I do enjoy listening to it. My favourite song is certainly “Der Tod und das Mädchen” (Death and the Maiden) by Schubert, which also happens to be the theme song for one of my favourite movies: “Food and the Maiden” (飯と乙女):

Schubert – Der Tod und das Mädchen, theme song of Food and the Maiden

It is difficult to name favourite artists, because it also tends to change, but some musicians who never fail to impress are Australian multi-talent Tash Sultana, jazz drummer Ari Hoenig and Belgian maestro Stromae:

Tash Sultana – Seven
Ari Hoenig – Anymore
Stromae – Quand c’est ?

As I like running a lot to calm down and channel excessive energy, I could endlessly listen to Rüfüs du Sol’s Live From Joshua Tree:

Rüfüs du Sol – Live from Joshua Tree

My favourite local band here in Taiwan is certainly Sonus de Gaia:

Sonus de Gaia – Todo cambia

During my two years living in Mexico, I discovered some very nice Latin American bands, but I think my favourite Latin artist is Chilean-French Ana Tijoux, who I found much later thanks to Spotify:

Now, while I enjoy living in Asia much more over a life in Latin America for many reasons, when it comes to music, I had a hard time to find Asian artists that I genuinely enjoy listening to. Especially after having studied Japanese for such a long time, it was sobering to realize that I could not find any artist – be it mainstream or not – that I would like. Until very recently that is; only a few weeks ago, YouTube recommended me an awesome funk session with Nao Yoshioka. I must admit though that it’s mostly the drummer who impresses me – totally “in the pocket” as musicians use to say:

Speaking of drummers, I never really had a role model, nor did I know much about the drumming community in general (mind you, that most of my active drumming time was pre-mainstream-internet). However, meanwhile if someone asks, I have an answer ready: Apart from previously mentioned Ari Hoenig, there’s also Larnell Lewis for his super funky-jazzy feel and Anika Nilles for her headspinning mastery of polyrhythms and polymeters:

Larnell Lewis – Chick’s Pain (by Mathieu Fiset)

I could go on and on, listing thousands of songs that I enjoy so much and that accompanied me through different periods of my life, but I think the conclusion that I can draw is simply that both listening to and making music are very important parts in my life and few other things have such direct access to my heart and emotions. I’m grateful for the endless diversity of music in this world, for my parents who allowed me to discover making music from such an early age on and for all happenings in life that brought back my inspiration to start making music again.

This article was written by Fabian

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