Exploration Between the Ears
Friends always laugh at what’s coming out of the stereo when I pull up in my sporty Pontiac Vibe. “You should crank that bass a little,” they tell me with a sense of irony.
In response, I just bang my head to the sweet beat of Bach.
Call me whatever name you will—‘nerd’ and ‘old lady’ are some local favorites—but the classical station is my jam. Here in Utah, it’s 89.1-KBYU (www.classical89.org). Besides concertos, symphonies, trios, and other such classics (pun intended), many of their segments showcase modern variations on musical traditions.
One day, for instance, pieces from an opera by Monteverdi might be played. An hour later, a show called “The Score” could feature music from the many incarnations of Star Trek, acquainting us with works of present-day geniuses like Jerry Goldsmith and Michael Giacchino. Though these compositions are separated by four centuries of change, they were written for the same reason: to help tell a story. Therefore, they resonate with a common audience.
Time, however, is not the only dimension transcended by music.
It can reach across oceans too.
This truth hit me in a new way a few weeks ago, when I was enjoying a radio show called “Performance Today” on KBYU. (www.yourclassical.org/programs/performance-today) The artist being showcased was The Danish String Quartet, but this was not the first time I’d heard of them. About a year earlier, the show had played a piece titled “Five Sheep, Four Goats” by the same group; I downloaded their album right away and listened to it on repeat.
So deeply was I stirred by their music, it compelled me to dig for a reason why. Why did I feel like this music was part of me? That I ought to be able to dance to it without being taught the steps or to play it without any knowledge of string instruments? Thanks to the omniscient, beneficent power of The Internet, my answer was readily found.
A modest amount of free research informed me that my ancestors had come from the same part of the world as these traditional songs. If their rhythm seemed embedded in my heartbeat, their melodies attuned to my brainwaves, then this discovery explained the phenomenon.
It also sent me on a quest for self-understanding.
Since that one “Performance Today” segment last winter, the idea of Home—of going back to my roots, or else laying roots down someplace—has been constantly on my mind. I don’t require much in life; in fact, I’ve been getting by on amazingly little for the last six years. But recently, certain small comforts are increasing in importance to me. Making myself a quality cup of coffee in the morning, for example, with adequate time to smell the fresh grounds and to savor every sip. Or folding my laundry when it’s just come out of the dryer so I can hold each garment up to my cheek, relishing its warmth for a moment before moving on to the next.
Home, I think, is the culmination of all such simple, human pleasures.
Apparently, my ancestors had the same thought.
I realized this during that recent episode of “Performance Today.” Its host, Fred Child, was describing a Danish concept called “hygge,” which I can only think of one way to explain: Imagine you’re curled up before a fire on your favorite chair, wrapped in a blanket, watching the snow fall outside your window, with a mug of tea or cocoa steaming in your hands. Take that feeling and wrap it up in a single word, and that’s hygge.
Delighted and astonished to learn such a word existed, I was suddenly infused with a craving to see the place where it originated. Where my family originated too. From the moment I first heard a folk song from Denmark, this Danish concept has been an essential part of my daily life—even before I had a word to define it. If one piece of instrumental music can spark such a revolution, it’s a wonder most people don’t seem interested in listening to it. If you haven’t yet, why not tune in to your local classical station? An epiphany may await you there.
You’re the 5th caller…
Some people call the radio in hopes of winning concert tickets or other material prizes. In my case, I never had to call; instead, I was called by music—to an exciting and meaningful adventure. One day, I’ll visit the land of my family. Until that happens, I plan to make Home right where I am and keep on growing where I’m planted.