let us weep
"There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors."
~ Adrienne Rich
I stumbled across this stunning rendition of one of my favorite songs on a Korean show yesterday, and promptly started sobbing.
A while back I posted Karl Paulnack's welcome address to freshman parents at Boston Conservatory, and I think about it every time some piece of art moves me to tears. I've been a musician since I was five years old, and I've never heard music described like this:
The first people to understand how music really works were the ancient Greeks. And this is going to fascinate you; the Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us.
And in their own special way, the Greeks were right. On many rough days, even when I try to cry, I can't until the right song comes along and picks the floodgates' lock. How many times has a song or film made you cry about sadness you didn't even know you had?
Music can slip beneath our conscious reality to get at what's really going on inside us the way a good therapist does.
I rarely cried growing up, but I do it frequently now. I'm always confused when people tell me not to cry. (I know they mean it comfortingly, but still.) Crying is cathartic. I feel so much better after a good cry, because it helps release some of that pent-up emotional anguish inside.
But crying feels best after you haven't done it for a while, when life has quietly built up a lot of emotional residue that needs to be washed away. I shouldn't be moping around everyday, anyway. So I'm going to try deleting Spotify and not listening to music for a few months. I love my favorite artists because they sing about heartbreak in a way that makes me feel heard, but I think I need to be away from sad music for a while. I've already deleted Google Photos and Discord, to prevent myself from looking through old photographs and messages, and this feels like the next logical (albeit slightly extreme) step in recovery. I don't know if avoidance like this is a healthy coping mechanism, but I feel like it's what I need at this point in my life.
The irony is not lost on me that I'm ending this post about how powerful music is with the declaration I'll be leaving music behind for a while. I think maybe music has done its job too well with me. In the same way you can't go to therapy 24/7, I shouldn't be plumbing the depths of my despair every day. I need to get on with my life and take care of pressing matters without breaking down. I know music will always be there for me when I'm ready for it.
I'll leave you with perhaps the most iconic part of Paulnack's talk, which I've seen plastered on the walls of music departments across the country:
What follows is part of the talk I will give to this year's freshman class when I welcome them a few days from now. The responsibility I will charge your sons and daughters with is this:
"If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you'd take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you're going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft."
thank you for reading; write to me at
yourstiramisu 🐌 proton dot me