Your body IS music
When I tell people that I’m a professional composer, nine times out of ten I hear the following response: “wow, I wish I was more creative”… or “wow, when I was little I took piano lessons and I really wish that I had kept them up. I really regret not continuing.”
Here’s the thing that I would love for everyone to know. We are ALL creative and we all possess music inside of us. We ALL possess the capability to create music.
Think about when you were a child. A teacher or parent very early on put a crayon or pencil in your hand and allowed you, actually, encouraged you to scribble away! You eventually started drawing shapes and using colors. Then you moved on to writing letters (and were probably singing the Alphabet Song as well). From there, you learned how to arrange those letters into words as you learned how to read, how to spell, and even created several stories yourself. The fact that you were not given manuscript paper and taught the building blocks of music is not your fault. We just aren’t making that level of education a priority in our society here in the U.S.A. (something that I hope to see change before I die!) Or maybe you had a fabulous education in music, but someone convinced you that you just “didn’t have what it takes” to create it. To that, I say nonsense! If you have a soul, if you have feelings, if you have a brain, you have what it takes to create music.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: creating music, or learning how to create music, isn’t much different from learning how to write language. I actually had another parent look at me after I shared this with him and say: “no, no, I definitely could not do that.” I had to bite my tongue to not say what I like to say to my daughter: “well, then, if you say that you can’t, then you can’t… but if you say that you can, you can.” But I didn’t think that he would take very kindly to my parenting quips in that moment, especially considering how adamantly he was refuting my argument.
I have sat in front of several classrooms of college students and told them at the beginning of the semester: “by the end of this semester, you will have created your own piece of music.” The first time I made this announcement, the fear and shaking heads even made me doubt my own ability to follow through with this promise. But lo and behold, by the end of the semester, I was blown away (as were the students) by the depth and creativity of each piece of music. Their pieces allowed us to get to know each of the students in a deeper way than I ever might have had we spent the whole semester getting to know each other through conversation.
Here’s some truth… if you are alive, music is flowing through your body at every moment. In Western Africa, there is a beautiful way of living around and through rhythm. They have made their lives so intrinsically connected to rhythm that it inspires everything that they do. (here’s a film recently shared by a friend who plays and teaches African drumming: Everything Is Rhythm | Open Culture)
When you walk, when you breathe, when you speak, as your heart beats, as your mind works, as your fingers tip-tap away at your keyboard, you are constantly allowing rhythm and music to flow through you. As you speak, your voice is creating intonations that mimic song. Music is all around us. As a composer, when I create, my process involves a sort of opening up… opening up to receive what comes to me… because creativity, sound, music is all around us… it is in us… we are music and music is us.
Now that I have you considering this concept, that you are as much a part of music as any professional musician or composer… I challenge you to consider ways in which your body is connecting to the creation of music. I challenge you to sing a song (no one’s asking you to stand on stage at the Met, just sing a song… it does wonders for the soul!) I challenge you, even, to get an instrument into your hands. Because I’ll let you in on a little secret, it’s never too late to learn anything in this world… and if you’re saying in your mind: “well, I’m too old or I was never good at music, or no one wants to hear me sing or play…” To that I say two things:
1) The world is filled with music… go ahead and join in… the more the merrier! and..
2) (I can’t resist)… if you say that you can’t…
Well, you know the rest.