“Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul … and such as it is to be of these more or less I am, and of these one and all I weave the song of myself.” Walt Whitman.
I used to brag that I’ve seen Slayer seven times. When I would hear of another member in the know of brutal rumblings coming from the stage of an army-laden amphitheatre, I would tune into their language to gauge what form of fan they were to the tunes I had found such rhythm in. I would ask a few simple questions relating to specific entities of carnal sound and continue forward systematically depending on their answers. If they knew a tune or two I required as part of the example being made, they were welcomed. If they knew many, they were designated a seat at my feast.
My roommate at Arizona State University gave me a new set of ears. This fresh duo of drums did not require an animalistic thrash of a restless tempo, but rather a sway into the tranquility of sound. I slowed down and began to hear what I had once sworn against simply for its lack of radical notion during my initial take when combining pace with perceptivity.
In the sense that my ears found fire instantaneous many times during the origin of my descent into the listen, I was now of the practice of adding one log at a time, feeding the flame that needed no inferno, but the warmth of each and every shoot that leaped off the body of the lava lacking flow, and into the invisibility of soulful recognition.
I smiled as I sat at my desk the other evening, an example being made of the words enveloped within this current form of explanation. A string of songs came onto the radio application that accompanies my phone, and a gold mine was struck. These songs were of simple sounds, beats with the personality to walk any street in town, to lie down in the middle of the road in the off chance there would be untold stories in the stars, a feat only seen from an original seat in the theater.
I no longer cling to the story that began this article with the ferocity of tongue that I once did, but my pride still resides within. I’ve been reading some words wondrously manipulated by Walt Whitman lately, and his language is of an angle that I’ve never seen before — but only felt deep inside on a thought-by-thought basis. I glimpse his take on life as if it is defined by nothing and everything simultaneously. He speaks of every moment with equality, as if one has no zest without the rest, and of each experience as if it were the greatest he ever had because it was plain as day, every view through the eyes simply a disciple of vision in its depiction of image, currently absolute.
I realized my own hypocrisy after many years of unnecessary critique. I used to quote blasphemy whenever a statement discredited my musical interests, and harshly circumvent any positive conclusion toward notes I found to sound of bad taste. In my most recent years of actually listening instead of waiting for presumably useless noise to conclude, I have heard songs that birds were born to utter, that a mother might sing to her young.
I have never hung to a crumbling string, for the twines which bind my kind have always been of radical solidity, be that only my opinion, but I failed to realize there were many shoots in the jungle to swing from. I’ve learned to open my feet to wherever the road is leading me, and as Whitman so eloquently states, I’m now “adorning myself to bestow myself on the first day that will take me.”
The ears I hear with are of no use to anyone but me, and the sounds that come streaming down from the clouds scream of souls that wear a smile, regardless of their appearance to the eye. I compare the gently trickling tickle when I hear about a boy with a coin in an Iron and Wine song to the raw pulsation that rattled my bones when I was creatively convulsing above a concrete slab with a hundred dark knights surrounding, as we smashed with class into each other during three minutes of auditory electricity and voices made of metal. I am no better than the person that swears against any of the bands of which I’m a fan, but I’ve become a better person because of each and every listen I’ve enlisted within.
Music is the soothe; it is the juice; it’s in the roots, regardless of where the dial is tuned. Be not a judge of my song, but simply let it play for ... I ever long to hear your sound waves swaying in whichever way they may.
Eric Engel, formerly of Tiskilwa resides in Madison, Wis. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.