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Rhythm 101

It has been ten years and the only thing that has changed is my love; it kept growing. I was four when I started playing the piano; and ever since then it's become, and increasingly so, an important part of my life. Now, I am not here before you to talk to you about revelations I've had while I've engaged with music, because frankly, I know I haven’t even scratched the surface of this facet I admire so much, so I'm not even going to try going there. What I am going to try and do is to talk about how music, as a medium of expression, is so profoundly powerful, and how it has changed my life in so many ways.

But before we venture on to define what music really is, or what it has evolved into becoming over these many centuries, we need to understand what sound is. Nothing more than a compression and rarefaction of air, sound is probably one of the most integral part of our lives. Studies show it is the second most relied upon sense function, that we use it all the time and everywhere to navigate the world around us. But more importantly, more often than not, sound translates directly into feeling.

The sound of a flowing river will, no matter what, bring you into a zone where you instantly feel more connected to nature, if you are Caucasian or Asian or African. And that is the second thing that makes sound so wondrous: it is universal; you feel it no matter where you are from, and that really intrigues me. How do all of you know along which lines to feel the sound of people screaming, or the sound of something crackling and burning. There is only one thing I need to illustrate this: in the far reaches of space, astronauts get really sick sometimes. It is more psychological than physical many times, where they begin to feel so much outside their comfort zones that their bodies themselves revolt. At such times, many of them carry a few, from here on Earth, a few clips of bird song, of waterfalls, of crickets in the rainforest, and sounds of these things alone calms them down, affecting directly their physical health. Sound has the potential to change our physical reality.

Music then, is nothing but an amalgamation of sounds produced consciously by people in a manner meant to stir the heart of man in sophisticated ways. Watching an interview of Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, I heard incredible tales of how he consciously cured people who had entered severe forms of depression just by making them engage with music, both as listeners and as creators. Beethoven used it in large measure to catapult himself out of suicidal contemplation when he discovered he was going deaf, and he said, at many points in his life, and quite arrogantly too, that the greatest of God's curses on him was that he was denied the pleasure of listening to his own music. Soon, I began to connect that, though not entirely, at points in my life as well, where I've used music to catapult myself to my optimum emotional and mental state, and that it is indeed quite true and evident.

Why then do we not see it as that much? I mean, I know music means something to all of us, we all have that song we listen to before a match, before an exam, before we go to bed every night. And I'm glad we do. To those of us who haven't yet discovered the wonders of music, I say: do it, today, because when you do, there will be no problem too big and no joy uncelebrated, and even at your loneliest, you will have an eternal companion.


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