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The Art of Life
Define music. The words lash out at me in a contrast of black against white, right against wrong. I ponder the statement for a long time, rolling possible answers around in my head and dismissing them with a frustrated sigh. I don’t remember studying this word from my vocabulary list. I’m beginning to think this task is impossible, then it finally hits me; music: life. I am proud of my answer and the fact I managed to condense something vast and essential into one word. I turn in the paper triumphantly.
Disappointment and frustration overcome me when the test results are presented. A big, red slash carves its way across my answer. I cannot believe it’s wrong, but even more, I can’t believe the redundancy of the definition suggested instead. Music: an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color. I eliminate a few words and replace music with life. Life: an art that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color. They mean the same thing. I am told to prove it and oblige without hesitation.
I start with rhythm. The dictionary reveals rhythm as a pattern of regular or irregular pulses caused in music by the occurrence of strong and weak melodic and harmonic beats. My heart holds a steady rhythm, beating from day to day, keeping me alive, but it’s the ones inside my heart that hold the rhythm of my life. The music plays, and I listen hard for the constant beat of the drum, strum of a chord, or tap of a tambourine. Take away the rhythm and everything falls apart. The rhythm is the constant. My rhythm is my family. They are the core to everything I am, my parents have put values in my head and taught me things I know from the day I was born. They taught me music; the music that plays endlessly in the background, steady and strong, the rhythm to my life.
The music started when I was really young, probably about two. The memory has been revived from an array of home videos piled atop a dusty VCR. When I notice a particular one, I’m overcome by a sudden longing to revisit the past. I gently pick up the treasured VCR and dust off the top. I slide it into the slot and curl up on the couch. I’m greeted with the grainy sound of I Would Walk 500 Miles by The Proclaimers blaring through the TV speakers. A smile plays at my lips at the sound, and I can’t stop the grin when my mama comes into the shot as a much younger lady. She spins circles around the tiny living room with me in her arms; singing at the top of her lungs. This song stays close to my heart, and sings the melody to my life. The melody’s the most important part. I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more, just to be with the ones I love.
A few years ago, on an average day, Mom and I were in the car, I don’t know what we were doing or where we were headed, but the radio was turned up and we were singing. Out of nowhere, my mom stops. “How do you do that?” she asks. I look at her confused.
“Sing the harmonies,” she replies.
I raise my eyebrows. “I don’t even know what that means,” I counter. She looks surprised.
“The harmonies, it’s where you don’t sing the melody, you sing notes that sound good with it. It’s really difficult for most people.” I just shrug, not realizing the discovery she just made has shaped who I am today.
I sing the harmonies. I make the melody, the star of the show, sound better. Everything’s arranged into consistent, orderly, and pleasing parts. It’s a talent I never realized I had. The radio plays, and I bust out the harmonies like nobody’s business. I don’t try to, or even think about it. In fact, I didn’t even know I sang differently until my mom pointed it out. The harmonies have come to define me sometimes, just like music has, but they hold a special power. I can take something beautiful, and make it even more beautiful. I can change the mood of a song by a note I sing. I can create order and beauty. I can do anything. Music has given me freedom.
Music runs in my blood. My mom’s family is full of musicians and talented singers. I’ve always been average, never good enough to be noticed. This summer I changed things. It was time for me to claim my spot in the family, to earn some respect. I started playing guitar.
I’ve had my guitar for a while, and when I first picked it up, a layer of dust coated the once reflective blue body, and it was so far out of tune it hurt my ears. It was a wild, untamed disaster, but I slowly came to know and understand its secrets. I am far from a master, but I am getting closer. I can pluck strings, and weave the tunes into complicated, beautiful melodies. I can color my own music.
This burning desire to play wasn’t all from my family though. Katelyn, my best friend, fueled the fire. We’ve written songs for as long as I can remember, about the drama of 4th grade and the perks of being popular and cool. We’ve finally matured into real songwriting though, letting our colors shine through the lyrics. The problem is writing the music to go along with the words. We needed someone to play the guitar, and I was available.
It’s changed my life. There’s no other way to put it. The power behind the music is incredible. There’s something to be said about anything that can transfer emotion so fluently. The rhythms, the melodies, the harmonies, and the colors all work together to form something beautiful. They create music, and they define life. Music is an art, with the intent of expressing emotion and ideas. It takes years and years to perfect. Isn’t life the same? It is certainly any art, which takes years and years to practice yet it will never be perfected. It’s what you spend your life doing that counts, and I intend to express myself and my ideas to the world.
So here’s my point again, music: life.