This post began with a question framed by infinitesimal: What is your theme song?
I responded that my theme song, if I had one, would change daily. Music, you see, depends upon my mood from minute to minute. So on the way home from work today, I reached into my cd case, went through all the cd's a couple of times, and decided to revisit a group I haven't listened to for quite some time -- the Cranberries. I turned up the volume and allowed the music to wash over me, seep into me...make me feel. Yes, music makes many people feel -- happy, sad, angry. But music goes far beyond mere feeling for me.
I was a young adult the first time I heard the phrase 'music soothes the savage beast.' And immediately, that had a meaning for me that it likely doesn't have for everyone. Because I recognized, even as a child, that there was something about me, something that not many would understand. I couldn't have put it into words then, and may not still explain it in a way that is understandable. But when I heard that phrase, I knew -- I knew that it meant something. Because, you see, I knew that I had one of those savage beasts inside me. It mostly sleeps, dormant, but occasionally wakes and makes itself known. Those are the times when I feel the sadness, so deep down inside that it doesn't seem quite real. When it wakes even more, I feel the sadness well up and escape. It was awake today -- mildly so -- hence the choice of the Cranberries.
I think it's entirely possible that everyone has a savage beast of their own, but it never awakens in most. In some, it wakes seldom, and when it does wake, it is not for long. In others, it is awake more than it is asleep. People often call us 'tortured souls,' but I've never thought that an adequate description. Why does the savage beast awaken? I don't know. It could be a lived experience, a biological reaction, or a memory. In me, when it awakens, there is something that speaks to it, calms it, and sends it back to sleep -- music. Not all music, though. No, there are certain kinds of music that speak to my beast. Sara McLachlan speaks to it, and early Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. The Cranberries. Clannad. Celtic music. Soundtracks from movies like Legends of the Fall. The Pas de Deux from the Nutcracker. A couple of songs from the Phantom of the Opera. Loreena McKennit. And of course, Billie Holiday. My god, how Billie speaks to my beast. There are others as well, that quiet my beast.
For some, it is written words that speak to their beast, quiet their beast. Stories, or poetry. Poetry doesn't speak much to my beast. My beast is logical and concrete, while poetry tends toward the abstract. Poetry is wasted on my beast. Ahhh, but music. Sweet, sweet music. My beast lies softly, gently, quietly, when the music is right.
There was once one exception to poetry. In a college course on literature, we were reading Dylan Thomas. His words alone didn't speak to my beast deeply, but in a more surface way. But one day, the professor pulled out a record (yes, an actual record album) and put it on one of those older record players that used to be used in schools. And I heard a voice speak to me, a deep voice, a voice full of his beast. I don't often hear someone's beast in their voice, but think about it -- this was Dylan Thomas, one of the troubled souls. Did his savage beast ever sleep? At that moment, his beast's voice and words spoke so deeply to my own dear, sweet savage beast that I was held spellbound, breathless, entranced. My god, how my beast slept after that!
So when my savage beast awakens, I soothe its soul with the sweetest sounds. Music to my ears. And my savage beast sleeps again. My beast awakens more now than it did years ago. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it is because I have moved away from music in my daily life, relying on the telly for company. Perhaps it is time to get back to the music that keeps the beast silent inside.