KAFM TUNED IN: Musical truth – you know it when you hear it
CATCH IT LIVE
Doctor Robert: Beatles Tribute — Oct. 17, 7 p.m., KAFM Radio Room
Darin Caine, Hellhound Express — Oct. 22, 7 p.m., KAFM Radio Room
Dave Mason — Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m., Moss Perf. Arts Center, Recital Hall
Truth disguised as music. You know it when you hear it. Philosophers and religious scholars may argue about the existence of absolute truth. There can be no argument, however, that musical truth is different for each of us, even at different moments of time or entire periods in our lives.
It may be the distillation of teenage angst in a lyrical phrase twisted by tone and rhythm straight onto your heart. You may find yourself saying, “How did he know EXACTLY how I feel right now?” — when even you, yourself, cannot articulate your feelings. Teenagers sitting in their rooms alone, listening to their favorite songs know this. Adults sitting in dark, smoky bars punching numbers on a jukebox know it just as well.
Besides helping us learn personal truths about ourselves, music can be harnessed to express our inner selves to others. Musical truth that expresses deep emotion can be captured and sung in a song to a lover in a way that communicates feeling in no other way. For some of us less musically able, the same courtship can be accomplished with a carefully cultivated mix tape expressing our personal truths in the voices of others. Either way, the message conveyed with rhythm and poetry is almost always more effective at communicating the inarticulate language of the heart than simple speech can ever accomplish. We seem to be hard-wired to respond emotionally to music in a deeply basic way, much as any animal responds to mating songs understood only by others of its kind. What couple does not have “our song,” a personal possession of passion and relationship shared with no other?
In a more general way, musical truth may capture a certain time in our lives. A certain song can bring back memories of an entire summer experience. Every summer seems to have its theme song, inescapable on the radio, providing an upbeat background theme to a certain time in our lives. Years later, on the oldies station, these songs can stir forgotten memories of friends, experiences, places and emotions. Even earlier in our lives, summer camp songs not only provide points of tribal connection with our fellow summer campers, but they become embedded deeply into our consciousness, surprising us as adults when we recall every word and gesture decades later when our children demonstrate to us a “new song” they learned. Folk songs function in the same way worldwide, teaching tribal survival truths in lesson songs or simply providing assurance of belonging to a group or family. In this way, the truth of the music travels through time, connecting unseen generations.
For a musician, musical truth may consist of striking the perfect note at the perfect time, carving the perfect phrase out of space and time during a jam, or by manifesting an entire song that seems to have been created by an unseen muse. Jazz musicians often speak of getting at the truth of music, stripping away artificial conventions and expressing raw emotion through their instruments. Some may struggle a lifetime to express that perfect, elusive musical truth. It is difficult to explain, difficult to obtain, but you know it when you hear it.
Your neighbors and friends are constantly sharing their own musical truths as programmers on KAFM 88.1 or kafmradio.org. Tune in and discover what music means for you.
Karl Prager aka “Uncle Karl” is a volunteer programmer on KAFM Community Radio. When he’s not traveling the world or attending music festivals, you can catch Uncle Karl’s “Yellow Dog Show” every other Thursday from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at 88.1.
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