“Without music, life would be a mistake.”

                                         —  Friedrich Nietzsche

I don’t know when I first heard this quote but it has always resonated with me. I once had one of those horrifying “Sophie’s Choice”-type conversations with a friend: “If you had to lose either your vision or your hearing, which would you choose?” Well, loving to read the way that I do this decision seemed almost impossible until I realized that “reading” would still be available to me through Braille or someone else’s voice, but music? I simply can’t imagine life without music.

Maybe this is because music serves so many purposes in my life. It’s not just entertainment. It’s language and memory. It’s a way to time-travel and a way to center myself. It’s a mood-producer and mood-enhancer. Given this love affair with music, one would think that I’d be endowed with some talent in this department. Oh, I can play a little piano-by-ear but that’s about it. Perhaps I was a great composer in another lifetime but this time around I’ve just been given a huge fascination with the subject.

I love reading about song-writers, particularly those that composed during the decade in which I grew up, the 60’s. I’m captivated by the lives of people who have music running through their brains, and this love of the lifestyle has led me to some very interesting places.

For instance, in the early 60’s I adored the harmonies of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. I found that the combination of their voices on songs like Surfer Girl, In My Room and Warmth of the Sun calmed me in ways I couldn’t describe. (Since I didn’t understand the harmonic attraction, I attributed my feelings to the looks of their drummer, Dennis Wilson). Although I didn’t stay a fan through the 70’s and 80’s, I found myself coming ‘round again in the late 1990’s. I was becoming familiar with the internet, and someone suggested that I try looking up sites connected with old interests.

So I searched out The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson and wound up in a chat room. Not only did I learn a lot about the production of music, I also (incidentally) met my future husband there. I’ve actually come to believe that it wasn’t incidental at all; rather, that those seeds were planted in the early 60’s (or who knows when in cosmic time) so that when the hour came, Roy and I would recognize each other through our mutual love of this sound, and have the opportunity to build on that.

Obviously we’ve all been attracted by different kinds of music and artists and bands but how much of that attraction has wound itself into our life stories? I’d be willing to bet that it’s a large amount. Not only the people we’ve met along the way, but the way music helps us process these relationships. (Aside: my daughter is about to marry a hugely talented musician. 😉

For me, music is a special doorway into the past that is powerful beyond my comprehension. It unlocks memories and emotions that I can’t get to any other way.

I’m currently working on a memoir of sorts and I find it interesting what I can recall and what stays stubbornly just out-of-reach. When I get stuck, I play some songs from the time period I’m working with and it’s as if the key suddenly appears and smoothly turns the lock on the door containing those memories. And even if I can’t remember the specifics, I can still feel the emotion of that time. Tracking the emotion often gets me back to what I’m after.

Have you ever been plunged into a forgotten phase of your life just by hearing a song from those days? It’s an amazing experience. I have such a vivid recollection of when I was maybe 5 years old and was in the den with my father. He was listening to Ravel’s Bolero on our new stereo and I was “marching” to the music around and around the coffee table. I was mesmerized by that composition and the way it kept getting louder and more insistent. I believe that it was one of my early major “flow” experiences. And I remember being in 6th grade music class when a very inventive teacher suggested that we close our eyes, listen to Peer Gynt’s “In The Hall Of The Mountain King” and then draw whatever the music made us feel and see.

I have such respect for musicians (and of course other kinds of artists) who work intensely for years, honing their craft and then creating out of the best their imaginations can offer. We’re all so fortunate to be able to enjoy their creations, and then take those gifts and use them to inspire gifts of our own.

13 Responses to "Music Is A Doorway"

  1. Helene

    August 1, 2009


    I love this! I’m listening to music more and more and I feel much happier, and I feel I want to dance.

  2. Lita Cox

    August 1, 2009

    Great story! I totally resonate with the love and need you have for music in your life..it is an important part of mine as well. It transports me back in time, it inspires me, lifts me up and reminds me of how creative and unique we all are. I would much rather listen to music than watch TV!

  3. Nancy Whitney-Reiter

    August 1, 2009

    Music is what drew me to my husband, too. And his music drew you in, which then connected us. I agree with Nietzsche, my life would have been much poorer without the love of my life and such dear friends!

  4. Sandy Mohlmann

    August 1, 2009


    I find our genre of music, when we were growing up, motivates me like nothing else. I put on an oldies cable channel at full blast. I get sooo much done when I have that impetus. If know one is home a sing loudly along. You may even catch me dancing, what a great excercise! Here, here to those emotions that fan the flame!

  5. sunny

    August 1, 2009

    Yup, I know what you both mean about the dancing.
    Interestingly, I read somewhere recently that we’re “programmed” to stay attached to the music of our formative years. It makes sense, but how lucky for us that we grew up in the 60’s! 😉

  6. Arlene

    August 1, 2009

    Life without music would be so very sad. As you very well know, I love music and it is a huge part of my family’s life. If you think back to a little over three year’s ago, you gave me an amazing gift of paying for some of my singing lessons when I was unable to afford them. You’re pretty amazing! Wondered if you’ve read, “Girls Like Us”? The book is about the lives of Carol King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon. Good read.

  7. sunny

    August 1, 2009

    Arlene — thank you. I had such fun surprising you back then! You were right on the cusp of celebrating your own gift and I didn’t want you to let it go. 🙂
    Yes, I read Girls Like Us when it first came out and loved it. I try to stay on top of those biographies/autobiographies and have a nice collection!

  8. Paul Bennett

    August 2, 2009


    The music of the Beatles has always had a big influence on my work. When I listen to it, I hear not only the music but am aware of the time and work ethic they must have had to produce so many great songs. The discipline of their craft and the openness to new ideas and working together- all very inspirational! Paul

  9. Sue

    August 7, 2009

    Sunny, you really are able to put my feelings into words beautifully about music. It has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. The nostalic feelings and warmth when hearing our “oldies but goodies” keeps me remembering the really good times of my life. In a time where memory seems to be a gift these days (55 and older), I cherish these musical memories. My one wish is to have some “musical” talent by either singing or playing an instrument. Maaybe one day……

  10. sunny

    August 7, 2009

    Lita – I enjoy reading your tweets about what you’re currently listening to. They remind me to dig out old favorites!

  11. sunny

    August 7, 2009

    Nancy – oh yes. Greg’s music *literally* brought us together and I’ll always remember that night. 🙂

  12. sunny

    August 7, 2009

    Paul – do you remember listening to “Martha My Dear” at my house one afternoon after we’d been to the library and the mall? Certain things stick in one’s brain… 🙂

  13. sunny

    August 7, 2009

    Sue — it’s funny how I associate friends and songs. Everytime I hear Smokey Robinson’s “Baby, Baby” or “He’s a Rebel” I’m back in front of your house. Bleeding madras and all. 🙂

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