The Mystery Unfolds...in which Uncle Duke hears the Songs of the Universe
I am deeply blessed. I am a man liberated and unrestrained. I feel anointed, sanctified and fortified. There is space yet in my heart, ethereal space to be filled, space of which I was unaware. For I can finally, at long last, hear The Music.
There is, I understand, a certain irony in the fact that since my ability to hear has mostly left me, I can finally, fully, hear The Music. After all those years of missing lyrics and grainy melodies, dull rhythms, all the rough and blemished noise, the background musical fog, it is a wonderful thing. No, that is insufficient. It is a Thing of Wonder! Which of course it has always been in the real, awake, alive, hearing world. But now I can finally hear it too. I am a rich man. The World of Music has been unlocked for me.
The source of this epiphany is that my current hearing aids have Bluetooth connectivity. It is not of course a new technology. It is nothing different, I suppose, from ear buds, or even ear phones. But then I never had any of those. So for the first time, The Music is now pure and perfect.
It is not an AM station and transistor radio away. It is not abused vinyl with a bad needle away. It is not a stretched and worn cassette tape and cheap car speakers away. It is not an amphitheater away, not three-rooms away, not the distance of a beat-up speaker or a worn-out woofer away. It is not muffled and garbled and swallowed by air.
It is not the shadow of the music. It is The Music. It is unobstructed by the Atmosphere, all of that air OUTSIDE my head. All those invisible gases, that buffer of septillions of free-floating molecules, those little sound sponges. There is now no distance between the source and my inner receptors. The Music is piped directly INSIDE my head. Halle-fucking-lujah!
To say that it has ‘enhanced my appreciation’ for music would be woefully inadequate. It misses the mark. The Music now reaches into places in my head which had been untouched before. It now reaches into the Inner Sanctum. It penetrates there and then exudes the essence of The Music. It goes directly to the auditory cortex where a song’s melody and harmony are allowed to sit and seep and expand. It fills my brain and floods all those folds and creases and crannies.
There are so many subtle things going on that I never noticed before. At the same time that the Top Gun, lead guitarist bounds about and pumps out his pulsating, ego-fueled but brilliant lead, the bass is persistently laying down a steady, fortifying foundation. I hear a skilled and graceful fiddle racing and skating about in the background as the drums thump out a beat, creatively filling and amplifying the spaces, moving it all forward. And the voice, sometimes multiple voices, dancing over it all, defining those things we had so long felt but could not describe.
I had no idea there were such layers of music. Listen. I simultaneously hear strident strings, the light, delicate touch of keys, the rounded breath of a saxophone and plump, juicy notes squeezed out of a slender, little flute, as well as tiny little tympanies chiming in. Some instruments I can’t even identify. I never knew they were there.
There is such astounding precision here. Instrumentation and progression too. Too many things to count. Musicianship and all the intricacies of the arrangement and the recording. And the lyrics floated on top. Haunting and graceful. Lyrical and poetic.
Who knew how to do all this? Who stacked all these pieces, arranged them, put them in order and created these bits of wonder from absolute scratch? Who were these gods, and where did they come from?
They were Chosen Ones, to be sure. Divine in their gifts, but imperfect and flawed in their lives. People like us mostly, their day-to-day lives full of drama and conflict, but devoted to The Music. Their Art. They were gifted and often cursed, driven by angels and demons they knew by name.
I listen late at night mostly. Or first thing in the morning. When my senses are heightened. When my brain is least burdened, or seeking to be unburdened, and can comprehend and appreciate the mathematics and the brilliance involved.
I confess The Music is mostly 60s and 70s rock, but that was my Age of Enlightenment. A meager enlightenment it may have been, but it was The Time when everything changed. Perceptions and Realities both. Truth and Falsehood were redefined. The Music brought all that into focus.
It ignites all those memories, rich and dark and sexual and full. Memories engraved in my head. So clear and so near. I am transported to intense moments of confusion and clarity. I am conveyed back to parties with beer flowing and the aroma of reefer floating about. Music and the accompanying images etched in my brain.
It awakens such sweet yearnings. It opens rooms with hazy, familiar characters in them—guys I knew. Girls I wanted to know. Nights of incense and making out and infinite possibilities. Grand mysteries without any clues. Poetry and perfume and connections. Doubts about a War in progress and my place in The Future. Music that created memories I wanted to last a lifetime.
And they have done that. They have stood the test of time and swell in me when I hear The Music. And I read the YouTube comments that follow The Music and I know that there are others. They are my people, my generation. I know them and they are likewise moved. I hear their affection and respect for The Music. They say:
“This music opened me up in ways I wasn’t aware I could be.”
“Listening to this music is like coming home to myself.”
“Still in my mind the greatest song ever.”
“I listened to that album the whole time I was in Vietnam. It is intense and timeless. I was in a tough spot back then, and I truly believe that song saved my life.”
“That band made a mark on my life. I know it’s only music, but it’s not, is it?”
I have previously described myself as a romantic. And even when I say that, I’m not quite sure what it means. But I can say that it is true that I cry quite often. More than most folks, I reckon. And what triggers that kind of emotion most often is The Music. It is deep and cathartic and transactional. It lights fires and lifts callouses, clears my brain and opens my ears. I HEAR IT. There is something in the melodies. Something in the lyrics. Something in the ether.
I know it’s only music, but it’s not, is it?