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Music is everywhere. No I’m not talking about the song of the birds, or the gentle hum of the breeze—I’m not being poetic. I’m talking about that REO Speedwagon song playing at the gas station, or Tears for Fears at the grocery store, or the Spoon album playing at the coffee shop while I’m writing this blog post, or me tuning out the Spoon album at the coffee shop with some Lamont Dozier in my headphones. With only a few rare exceptions, it appears that where there are people, there is music playing. This is great right? I love music, you love music, so it is only natural that we would want it playing everywhere.

No, this is not great. First of all, music is often playing at the supermarket, and liquor store, and restaurants to make you spend more money— this isn’t a conspiracy theory, the effects of music on purchases have been studied, tested, and verified since the 1960s (here’s a layperson-friendly article on the topic if you care to read it). The fact that corporations are using music to affect our purchase habits is certainly alarming. Yet as a musician and lover of music, I am disturbed by a more general fact: when music is playing constantly, we tend to value it less.

Music is perhaps the single richest human endeavor. Interchangeably or all-at-once music can provide a means of communication, an expression of emotion, a spiritual devotion, an ecstatic experience,an affirmation of one’s culture or group, a catharsis, a way of healing or countless other things. Music activates neurons in more areas of your brain than almost any other activity (and that’s a nearly un-paraphrased sentence from this article). Music should be revered for the all-consuming entity that it is. Instead we offer it up like free mints at the end of a Tex-Mex meal.

Before the proliferation of recorded music and stereo systems,respect for music came more naturally. To experience music a person would go to church and hear the mighty organ and choir, or go to the symphony, or meet in the town square for an after-work jam, or listen to a family member play piano, or sing songs with your friends (I”m certain that this is an over-simplification of musical activities in the past but you get my drift). Music was the most captivating form of entertainment and a relatively rare treat by today’s standards. Today we have constant access to music through computers, smartphones, radios and stereos and many of us wield this power like drunken kings, constantly bombarding our ears with a schizophrenic onslaught of tunes.

Furthermore, I think that there is a direct correlation between the ubiquity of music and a decline in dancing. In some African languages the word for “music” and “dance” is the same. In American English, perhaps we could use the same word for “music” and “driving.” Today music turns up in places that are not appropriate for dancing just as often as places where dancing is encouraged. There is probably some up-tempo music playing at the grocery store right now, but you won’t see anyone dancing to it. This socially forced denial of dancing carries over even to places that are deemed appropriate for dancing. I’ve been to (or performed at) too many live shows where the band is laying down some clearly danceable grooves, and the crowd is just motionless, cerebrally listening. I think that this is just what happens when you’ve been listening to music all day but haven’t busted a single move— you didn’t dance during the day when you were listening to Beyonce so why break the seal at the Big Piph & Tomorrow Maybe show? (shameless plug number one)

However, there is still hope for music. One arena in which music is still respected and fully enjoyed in our culture is at weddings. During the ceremony, music propels the movement of this still sacred ritual, and people are quite often moved to tears when they hear the first notes of the bride’s processional. Even after the ceremony, music still sits on it’s rightful throne; through some magical combination of booze, feel good songs, and joy for the newlyweds, wedding receptions still manage to get people to really cut loose on the dance floor. I absolutely love weddings for this reason, and I am extremely excited to get to travel to Eureka Springs this Saturday to play at a wedding reception with my band That Arkansas Weather— we’re available for hire by the way (shameless plug number two).

Yet you don’t have to wait for a wedding to start respecting music. Unfortunately you can’t turn off the music at the grocery store or Starbucks, but you can turn it off in your car; and you can take your headphones out once in a while; and you can turn it on in your room and really let it grab you by the bones; and you can come to the That Arkansas Weather show Friday at the Afterthought and dance til you feel better (shameless plug number three and I’m out).

For those not yet privy to it, this blog is part of a nine-month long project in which I release a blog-post and a new song every week. So below is this week’s Opus if you care to listen, and even further below are links to posts from past weeks. Enjoy!

Week 1—Nine Months of New Music

Week 2—That’s Masturbation

Week 3—Oblique Strategies

Week 4—A Conversation with the Wolfman

 

At the dawn of this blog-site, I told myself and you my precious readers that I was documenting my musical progress and pursuits in order to hold myself accountable to my stated goal of making music my livelihood. I knew that I was going to make a living with music— I simply gave myself no other choice— and publicizing my goal on this blog was a way to further solidify that destiny. What I didn’t know was what exactly my musical work would look like, and whether I would be really really poor or just poor.

Lo and behold, all fall and winter I have indeed been getting plenty of musical work to keep myself afloat. Furthermore, it seems to be getting easier and easier for me to find new and steady work (yesterday alone I was offered three gigs). But as it turns out, actually playing, practicing, and working on music seriously cuts into my blogging time. My life lately has been full of subject matter for this blog (quick generic summation: playing with six different bands, practicing jazz and classical guitar, teaching four guitar students, booking and performing numerous shows, attending countless rehearsals, writing and recording original music, applying for grants and music contests, etc.); yet the more subject matter I create, the less time I have to write about it. I am certainly much more comfortable with this catch-22 than the converse (i.e. me blogging about music so much that I rarely actually play music), however I do still feel that this blog is an important cornerstone of my musical life.

Socrates allegedly said that “the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being” (or something like that). I’m not going to unpack all my thoughts about that quote because this isn’t a philosophy blog (this is). Suffice it to say that I think that guy Socrates (and/or Plato) was on to something, and I think that taking time to examine, reflect upon, and reveal my musical endeavors and ambitions does in fact make my musical life more worthwhile.

Thus, I am here rededicating myself to this blog. I am not quite as ambitious as my first go-around when I said I would blog like every weekday (what?! that’s like professional bloggers status). Instead, I’m aiming for two short blog posts a week revealing what I am currently planning for, working on, and thinking about in music. If you are reading this now, please continue to check back in on my progress as I attempt to fulfill my goals of completing my 10,000 hours to mastery, getting paid for original compositions, becoming the most famous Lucas Murray on the internet (more famous than this one), and continuing to stay comfortably poor by playing music. Peace.