I am an avid, passionate music listener, and so it happens that I regularly draw myself into difficult recordings. It is a perhaps unfortunate and certainly disconcerting fact that the most revealing and furthering music I know is often also the least accessible.
The consequence is that I put a lot of effort in the preparation of an occurrence which is essentially made of free flow. The cost to reach over –maintaining a week-long mindset and working towards meditation-like conditions– is enormous, and I am fully aware of the contradictions at hand.
It is very frustrating when, in the midst of a session, I am still struggling to let the music penetrate, fighting not to fight, looking for signal among noise. The questions are then endless.
In one such unsuccessful moment I reflected that listening seemed to become more difficult, or less fruitful, as I grow older. I felt exactly like the day a three-year-old was drawing pictures under my eyes and I realized I would never again be able to draw like that. There is something truly artistic, the mark of a genuinely spontaneous and sincere expression, in a kid’s passionate scribbling. I tried drawing like this too but the weight of concepts made for very different (and much colder) results.
A toddler’s drawing comes to life because there is something said but we know we shouldn’t be looking for that something. The drawing –the coming together, the sharing– is the purpose, and the answer to the question “What is it?”, which all adults need answered, does not matter much.
I was always taught language as a medium. From the first kindergarten sessions up to high school we have always been looking for patterns in language as tools to convey meaning. Even poetry is explored as an intricate condensate of language technique: I don’t remember anyone suggesting that it could be much like a children’s game, a joyful improvisation within imaginary rules that needs no justification to the outside.
Learning different languages (I use “languages” here in the largest possible meaning) is important; I am grateful today for all that hard work as I assemble letters into words, words into sentences to shape text. We continually aim for rich, powerful language because the more meaning we convey and the stronger the bond with our audience becomes.
But I have come to find that we don’t merely use language; instead we partkake in it. It appears to me that in the same way that we learn languages mostly to convey meaning, we convey meaning mostly to participate in the conveyance.
In other words, music is not a language but “language”, in and by itself. The connection –as Eben Moglen would put it, the exchange of tokens of meaning– may well be the real purpose of the exchange. Here are some words, together they make text and carry meaning, and if you can relate to that we may connect in an ever more subtle way.
In that sense, one can view language as just one way to experience the world. Meaning may last forever but the narrative doesn’t; that storytelling may well be all that we strive for. Languages as baskets to carry meaning, and meaning as a pretext to partake in language. It’s all toddler drawings. We’re social animals all right.