Writing in Thin Air

When we’re in the womb, we learn about the outside world through our sense of hearing. The sound of our mother’s heartbeat; her voice — it’s all deeply ingrained in us before we’re even born. So, it’s no surprise that auditory stimuli are so powerful and why paintings of sound evoke such strong emotional responses.

On Thursday night, I had one of those experiences. I was standing in the Applied Research and Development building on the NAU campus, listening to a composition by my friend Drew Worden and taking photos. The ARD building is a sleek arc of glass and concrete with a large, open lobby. Musicians were stationed throughout the building, on the ground floor and spread along the upper level. Each was playing a piece that seemed unrelated, but as you moved through the space, the music combined in new ways to form new melodies. I could almost see the notes hanging in the air, swirling and mingling in the ether. And it was beautiful.

There were so many whispers of half-formed words in the notes that sailed above my head. I couldn’t help but be swept up in them; to try to listen to the fragments and build a narrative in my imagination.

There is something primal about music. It’s raw; it’s instinctual. But I won’t bore you by making it a metaphor for life or anything — you’ve heard that before. Suffice it to say that I think to be human is to be musical. And as human beings, we love to tell stories, whether through words or pictures or music. That’s just what we do.

So, here I sit, guitar in hand, practicing a very basic chord progression. This is my third attempt to learn an instrument (having summarily given up on piano and violin). My fingers can’t always find the right frets and the callouses are slow to form.

But I keep at it anyway, because there’s something gratifying about telling stories in a language that is understood the world over. And while I’m a long way from being able to play anything resembling a song, I like the challenge and I love the feeling of getting it right and being swept away…if only for a moment.

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My lyrical thoughts on anything and everything can be found on Twitter at @jonnyeberle, if you’re so inclined to follow me.

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