I can hear music

I love the Beach Boys’ song, I Can Hear Music. The ardour of young love and the sweet harmony capture all that is beautiful in life. Yes, it’s just a teenage love song, but listen to the jangling guitars, insistent beat and plaintive voices. Isn’t that what life is all about: wishing and hoping and, if you are lucky, getting what you want?

Popular music perhaps most faithfully articulates our feelings, for it changes with every generation, and no two generations have ever seen eye to eye. I can’t stand rap music any more than the rappers have time for the Beach Boys and the Beatles. This evanescence is what makes popular music so appealing, for it mirrors our own lives. We know it’s going to fade away, just as we will, but that’s why it’s all the more dear to us, because we can identify with it.

You can catch the sparks flying between the singers and their fans even on YouTube videos. Watch the Beatles and their fans enjoying themselves hugely back in the early 1960s.

See Elvis Presley smiling to a rapturous audience on his 1968 comeback special.

This kind of triumph, where the performer knows he has the audience eating out of his hand, is not possible outside music and drama. The artist in his studio, the writer at his desk, practises his art in isolation. We may sing along, but we read alone. But people still read Shakespeare, queue up at the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa. How many remember the popular music of Shakespeare’s time?

Maybe because I am no classical music buff, I am inclined to think words outlive music notes. Close your eyes before you read the next line:

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky.

Didn’t you catch the excitement in those lines by Wordsworth?

Words distil emotions in a way that music can’t. You have to listen to Mozart or the Beatles to appreciate them. Wordsworth you can appreciate with your eyes as well as ears. His poem has the same youthful ardour as the Beach Boys’ song though it is not about love but life itself:

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began,
So is it now I am a man,
So be it when I shall grow old
Or let me die!
The child is father of the man:
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

I don’t like the “piety” bit, having grown up on rock ‘n’  roll, but the rest of the poem is a joy to read. That’s the way we want to live, with all our senses sharp and clear until we die. It takes a poet, of course, to put that into words; a musician, into song.

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