On Music
by Branden Hart

When people ask me what languages I speak, I'm often tempted to answer, "English and music." It's not an answer I would ever give, because we all speak the language of music to some extent. Some of us just understand the subtleties of the language a little more than others. I've been reading sheet music since I was five years old. Put a sheet of music in front of me, and I can look at it and start to understand what's being expressed by all the black on white of the page. mozartpracticing.jpg

I always thought that everyone had this unique relationship with music, just because it's been such an important part of my life for so long. Before I started playing piano, my dad would play. One of my best memories as a young child is sitting in our living room, listening to my dad play Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Hearing that—the control he had over the instrument, and his ability to make it say exactly what he wanted it to—is what drove me to start playing myself. I took piano lessons for fourteen years, from the age of five until my freshman year of college. And while I didn't enjoy every minute of it—the practice times were excruciating—it fostered within me a love for the language of sound that will never die. So I thought that this kind of thing was natural, that everyone loved music the way I did. I would meet people at college who wanted to go up to the big baby grand in the student union and play until the late hours of the morning. Me and one of my best friends would sit on our balcony, playing guitar and singing. Hell, we didn't even need beer. Just our guitars.

But I was wrong—not everyone shares this passion. Before things started picking up for me at work lately, I spent a lot of time on a website some of you are very familiar with—Totalfark. Beside the point, this is one of the best websites of all time. One of the great things about Totalfark is that you have this sense of community, and you share your ideas with other people, and get almost immediate feedback.

One day on the site, the conversation turned toward music. I mentioned a song that I was listening to that made me cry—Elton John's Indian Sunset. It's a song about an American Indian (Native American, whatever) and how he dealt with the impending near-extinction of his species. It is a heartbreaking piece of music, and an example of the near-perfection Elton John and Bernie Taupin were able to achieve in the beginning of their careers. Someone on Totalfark picked up on my comment, and started making fun of me. While I don't have the exact transcript of the conversation, this person was quick to inform me that crying at a piece of music made me a pussy. I was shocked. And I tried to talk reason into this fellow, telling him why I was so emotionally moved by this collection of sounds and lyrical poetry, but he wouldn't budge. He still thought that this outpour of emotion due to a piece of music made me less of a man. I finally told him that I felt sorry for him, because due to my sensitivity to music, I was experiencing a part of the human emotional spectrum that he could not even dream of. uberHamster.jpg

Music is not something I take for granted. It's a part of my daily life. I still play the piano. Most days, I find relief from the "daily grind" by coming home, cracking open a beer, and sitting down at a console piano that used to belong to my girlfriend's grandfather. My communion with music has taken me places that I fear all too many people will never travel.

I have been fortunate to find friends who share this love with me. Friends who understand that when I put on one of my many copies of Ravel's Bolero, it's time to sit back and listen. Friends who understand that my tears that come from a listen to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies' An Orkney Wedding with Sunrise are tears of joy. Friends that understand why I continue to play Lupe Fiasco's Kick, Push over and over and over again (my girlfriend has been especially understanding about that particular piece). But I still grieve for those whose lives are not augmented by the language of music.

As for my friends at FTTW, I know you all share this same passion. And though an expression of thanks would have been more appropriate a few weeks ago, I want to thank you all for reminding me that there are people in the world who would gratefully admit that they too speak the language of music.

Tell me about your relationship with music. What music makes you cry, what music makes you laugh, what music makes you want to fuck? This site is written in English, but every single writer on FTTW speaks in music as well. Tell me about it.

Uber would like to ask you a few other things but we think it would be best if he just stuck to this question for now.



i used to play piano all the time but i really grew to hate the pratice. The isolation of it killed me. Sitting in another room all alone staring at a wall didn't work.

i guess thats why i picked up other instruments. You could move around with those and pratice while watching TV. Sometimes i wish i wouldve kept up the piano...


Thanks for sharing this, Uber.

I don't play any instruments but I do have that relationship with music that you write about. There are songs that can make me cry, not even because of the lyrics, but because of the music itself. Some people just don't hear that, they don't get the emotion that comes from music. I feel sorry for anyone who doesn't or won't even try to experience the emotion that comes from any art, be it music or paintings or books.

It's like when I try to explain to people why the guitar solo on Comfortably Numb is so emotional to me - unless you allow yourself to listen for the feelings within the music you won't hear it. The people who don't allow themselves that emotional connection with works of art are really missing out.


There are only two things in my life more important than my love of music and luckily, they both live with me.

What makes me cry ? Puccini's La Bohème. What makes me want to fuck ? Kruder and Dorfmeister The K & D Sessions. What won't get out of my head right now ? Tricky's cover of Black Steel.


Music is the only thing i get emotional about, probably. Well, it's the only thing any of my friends have ever seen me react to.

It just makes getting up every day worth it sometimes when i know i can go sit in the back room and play.


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