More Than A Melody

I’ve been thinking about the deep impact music has on me. Like sports, it is truly the ultimate metaphor for life. If one pays attention, there are lessons to be learned that last a lifetime. For me, it is an irreplaceable ingredient, pure sustenance.

One of my favorite things about being a black woman is being blessed to have inherent soul. Knowing that my ancestors literally created music is liberating. The instruments, the sounds, the rituals attached to it. It is the essence of joy, the meaning of brilliance.

From a very young age, real organic music lodged in my brain like shrapnel. It remains there, stuck in that area of the mind where emotion and mood mesh together. There are some lyrics that I heard 20 years ago that I can’t forget. There are beats I’ve played that creep through my blood and take me back to particular moments in a powerful, sometimes unspeakable kind of way.

Music is patience. I’m not being dramatic or an “overly conscious sista” when I say that music teaches us many things on many levels. It teaches us the difference between listening and hearing. In life, the skill of being an effective listener can not be overestimated. There are layers to sound that beg to be separated and enjoyed. Take jazz for instance. Some may dismiss it as just a cacophony of instruments, like throwing paint on a wall to see what sticks. But, listen the first time and hear the horns. Then listen again and realize there is a bass line in there. The third or fourth listen may reveal percussion that you didn’t even know was there. It is about many parts making one amazing whole. So, when someone speaks, I can hear what is behind the words. Music taught me that.

Music is openness. To fully experience life, one must be open to any and all possibilities. Growing up, the radio held more than just “black music.” It held all kinds of perspectives and ideas, thoughts and experiences. Being open to that “otherness” has served me well. I try different foods, films, locales and more, all because I had the foundation of variety through music. Remain open.

Music is balance. We all have a soundtrack to our lives. Those songs that make you feel at once vulnerable and understood. I’m not hating on hip hop. If it speaks to you and that’s your thing, love it! I’m a child of the 90s. I love the pioneers. I get it. But, I always had more than one flavor to appease my palate. For every dose of Biggie was a spoonful of Quincy Jones. For every cut from NWA there was a chorus from Aretha.

I feel sad for this current generation. Because I just can’t fill my soul up with any of this garbage. It is disposable. I won’t be dusting it off in ten years with a smile of fondness. I don’t want to get low or back it up. I just want to listen if you have something to say that doesn’t make me feel dirty, used, defiled or make me have to defend my womanhood.

I’m not going to rant about the state of music today. It is a business like anything else. Those in power have found a formula and they are sticking with it. But I don’t want to hear that there is nothing out there. Stop complaining about radio playing the same stuff in rotation and get out of the box. Support independent radio and record stores. Go beyond what is easily found and explore.

So, yeah, I guess you could say that I’m in love with music. But, music is in love with me too. It approaches and seduces me and draws me in. It waits for me to understand it. It is patient. It is open. It doesn’t take me for granted. It meets me in my misery, brings me to tears and then reminds me to wipe them away. If for some reason we are separated, I experience a mild form of withdrawals.

Such is life. There is always more to discover. Let the music play…

Ellene Miles has worked as an entertainment publicist for more than 6 years. Her collections of rants are featured exclusively on UTC for the good of the people.

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June 11th, 2008 at 2:10 am Binta Rohan says:

Beautiful stated.

June 11th, 2008 at 3:14 am SweetSis says:

I wish I felt this way about music. I have a few songs that spark emotions but its not really as deep as yours. I feel like I’m missing out now!

June 11th, 2008 at 4:29 am StopLoss Sweetie says:

What a pretty piece, It sounded like music actually. It is really in you even in your writing Miss Miles.

June 11th, 2008 at 6:06 am Ginger says:

I ditto Binta. Good blog Ellene.

June 11th, 2008 at 7:43 am Kenneth Boston says:

“Music is patience” - yes!!

June 11th, 2008 at 10:36 am teradise says:

brilliantly said and very true. The young generation has to dig through the crates and find that good music…it may be from another generation, but its there.

June 11th, 2008 at 10:50 am Bam Saldana says:

the balance is where you hit it on the head for me. my ipod is like a friggin encyclopedia of music. some punk some rap some gospel some classical some country. can the kids listen to more than 14,000 lil wayne mixtapes in a constant loop? damn i sound old. the kids? i really said that? oy.

June 11th, 2008 at 10:59 am chica22 says:

Lovingly written & lovely to read.

June 11th, 2008 at 11:02 am MissReina says:

I like that music is patience too. never thought of it that way.

June 11th, 2008 at 11:18 am hatemenow says:

The kids have music to they just gotta find it!

June 11th, 2008 at 11:26 am Stephanie says:

I was really feeling your love. Nice.

June 11th, 2008 at 11:41 am thelma says:

this was a lil too deep for me

June 11th, 2008 at 12:04 pm Petra says:

Elvis Costello once said “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture - it’s a really stupid thing to want to do.”
The comment always stuck in my mind as I could not disagree with him more.
Dancing about architecture is a perfectly reasonable reaction to a thing of beauty. And I would imagine it to be a difficult feat to accomplish. And so it is with writing about music: difficult and worthy.
The lyricism of your writing - describing music as everything from shrapnel to a lover - is quite stirring.
I also enjoyed your writings about fear of Mr. Obama there and pray that your words reach those who need to hear them both in the States and abroad.
Peace Be To All.

June 11th, 2008 at 12:10 pm heatmizer says:

This is so true althought I never put it in those words. But the older I get the more I appreciate all kinds of different music

June 11th, 2008 at 12:19 pm buttabrown says:

I feel this way about live shows! Nothing like it!

June 11th, 2008 at 1:19 pm CeaseNYC says:


June 11th, 2008 at 1:34 pm Diallo Tyson says:

I’ve come to grips with the current state of music. I’m fine with listening to my 10, 15, 20 year old CDs. If someone hips me to a new cat, I’ll check them out. But I’m set in my ways. Unfortunately, I’ve become Bitter 30 Year Old Guy:)

June 11th, 2008 at 2:08 pm shoniece says:

You really get in to the intimacy of music and define why what we have today is noise.

June 11th, 2008 at 3:47 pm pmatters says:

I could visualize exactly what you are saying! I would love to read some of your reviews on music.

June 11th, 2008 at 3:50 pm knowmeloveme says:

I miss Lauryn Hill.

June 11th, 2008 at 6:22 pm ratty says:

viktor duplaix, lalah hathaway, jaguar wright, little dragon, mia, jill, erykah, common, talib, roots, the list goes on. its out there. just like ellene says, no use complaining - just do you.

June 11th, 2008 at 8:31 pm Ellene Miles says:

Thanks for the comments! Diallo, I hate to say it, but I too am that bitter (cough) 3___ year old too! LOL

June 11th, 2008 at 8:32 pm Tina says:

It is amazing to me how many people have this kind of passion for music. It really is the rhythm of life Ms. Ellene!

June 11th, 2008 at 8:35 pm Torian says:

Thats nice. There still is substance in music, I’m young, but a fan of the 90’s as well. Real nice Ellene!

June 11th, 2008 at 9:24 pm Mahogany says:

Im inspired to explore different artists and music. Nice blog as usual.

June 11th, 2008 at 11:33 pm missme says:

@ petra - you broke it down! love your profile.
@ ellene - you broke it down! love your blog.

June 13th, 2008 at 1:58 pm ellenoir1 says:

To quote Eric Sermon, I once wished music would adopt me. But now, I feel like a motherless child. Honestly, I haven’t listened to the radio in several months. It’s all about the Ipod. It’s all formula now. Artistry is out the window, lyrics that made you think beyond your zipper rarely exist, and black radio seems to cater to younger kids, feeding them trash daily. I agree think outside the programmed channels, search for new sounds and heights musically!


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