No, it’s not broken, nor was it stolen, but I’ve just decided to let it go until the end of Lent. To many of you this may sound silly or easy to do, but in Los Angeles you spend A LOT of time in your car, so I think it’s rather significant. It was pretty difficult at first, but now I’ve come to enjoy the purifying silence at the beginnings and ends of my days. It gives me time to think, pray, reflect, and even act out my favorite “Madea” moments. What I’m NOT doing in my car these days is taking the artistic expression of musicians for granted, and treating their hard work as nothing more than background noise. Now I’m not accusing any of you of doing that with your car radios necessarily, but if we’re honest with ourselves I think we are often times turning on the radio for the purpose of noise – especially to cure awkward silences between you and a co-pilot.
The idea of music being a side-show to something more important isn’t new at all. Back in the days of Classical opera (17something or other…not good with dates) the lights in the theatres and opera houses would be up so that the guests could schmooze and see who was there, all while an opera was being performed. Today, brilliant original scores are composed every year for movies that we tend only to acknowledge if there are lyrics (Disney type movies, or musicals) or if it wins an Oscar (I recently performed a movie music concert that people really came out for and enjoyed, though).
I guess these days musicians of all types are just happy to work either way (I know I am), but “ditching the dial while driving” has heightened my senses and awareness when it comes to pop music, particularly. At work a few weeks ago I listened to Beyonce’s “B-day” album and was blown away by some of the non-singles on the CD. Because I was actually listening to the music things came up that I’d never really noticed before – and that’s saying something for THIS Beyonce fan! Rihanna’s “Loud” album has also become a favorite at work, much for her sensitivity to different styles, from lyrical to ultra-pop, and even a little Rasta.
This idea hits home a little bit for me as well, too. If I were to give a recital I’d be very upset if a whole lot of stuff was going on other than listening to me, and you would be too. In 9th grade my band director at the time reprimanded the student audience for treating a performance of “Ode to Joy” for the Black History program like “a radio”, and I agreed. You just never think about these things when the music isn’t live, I guess.
I’m not telling anyone that they should turn off their car radios to appreciate anyone’s music more, but try to pay more attention to the art you’re surrounding yourself with. Really look at the pictures hanging in your house. Consider the artistic or expressive traits in what you wear tomorrow. Don’t treat music as background noise.